Switching between cord-cutter services may sound like work, but it's honestly one of the best things about the post-cable box world. Though I'll admit doing it twice in one year feels a little annoying.
Yes, around year and a half after I cut the cord with Sling TV, I ditched it when a pair of price-hikes made its feature-set make less sense. Looking for the best cable TV alternative for my own needs got more complicated, though, when YouTube TV raised its prices, too.
Fortunately, I've been doing all of the research in the background, writing our Sling TV vs YouTube TV and YouTube TV vs Hulu + Live TV face-offs. So, now that YouTube TV doesn't feel as great as it once did, I know where to go.
YouTube's price went up, and my discount is over
When I ditched Sling TV for YouTube TV back in March, I got a deal in the process. Normally $65 per month at that time, YouTube TV offered a $55 rate for the first three months to eligible (new and returning) subscribers. Combined with a 14-day free trial, it was a glorious moment. Now, with May here and June fast approaching, the deal is over.
And, in the time since I signed up, an $8 per month YouTube TV price hike arrived. YouTube TV's new $73 per month price isn't that much worse than Hulu's $70 per month price, but it's all enough for me to say "hey, let's spend a month on the other side of the fence." Especially when you consider the perks.
Hulu + Live TV will save me even more cash
The biggest reason to get Hulu + Live TV is the way it bundles in Disney Plus, the best Hulu shows and the best Hulu movies (heck, it even gives you ESPN Plus if you want it). All for free, in the $70 tier. That's technically not the cheapest plan, as $69 per month can get you just Hulu's live TV content, with none of Hulu's on-demand programming.
But as someone currently spending $15 per month for Hulu and Disney Plus, the idea of cutting those payments off my budget is intriguing. The only catch will be that I'll have to switch to the ad-supported Disney Plus basic, but that's something I'm willing to try for now. I'll also have the option to cut ads out of Hulu and Disney Plus, by spending $13 extra.
Here's the math on how this all works out for those who aren't grandfathered into the Disney bundle I've got:
|Header Cell - Column 0||YouTube TV||Hulu + Live TV|
|Live TV||$73 per month||$70 per month|
|Disney Bundle (ad-supported)||$13 per month||Free!|
|Total:||$90 per month||$70 per month|
Or, maybe, you're really excited that YouTube TV's introducing multiview for watching different sports games at the same time.
Hulu + Live TV is feature-competitive with YouTube TV
All of those price differences only really help if the services are actually similar, as I know from writing our YouTube TV vs Hulu + Live TV face-off. Fortunately for me, Hulu + Live TV is actually really competitive with YouTube TV, at least for my needs.
Both carry the channels I truly need: ABC and ESPN (for NBA playoffs live streams and F1 live streams), FXX (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is coming back soon), and the triumvirate of USA, TBS and TNT for pro wrestling from AEW and WWE.
On top of that, Hulu offers the exact-same DVR cap as YouTube TV. You get an unlimited amount of recording space, and recordings last 90 days. Let's see how they compare to the whole field of the best cable TV alternatives:
|Hulu with Live TV||YouTube TV||Fubo TV||Sling TV Orange+Blue||DirecTV Stream|
|Starting Price (per month) ||$70||$73||$75 (before regional sports networks)||$55 ($60 for select regions)||$75|
|Channels and content||More than 80 channels, Hulu content, Disney Plus with ads, ESPN Plus||More than 100 channels||More than 155||47 channels||More than 75|
|DVR||Unlimited||Unlimited||1,000 hours||50 hours||Unlimited|
|Simultaneous Streams||2||3 (Unlimited option available in $84.99 per month package)||3||1 (with Orange), 3 (with Blue) 4 (in the $55 per month Orange/Blue)||3|
This is a good time to explain why I'm not using the other services. While I've used Sling TV to cut the cord, its recent price hike to $55 (or $60, if you're like me and live in a region where the ABC network costs extra) feels incongruous with its 50-hour DVR cap.
Fubo doesn't have TNT or TBS, and will charge me an extra $13.99 per month "regional sports fee" that I can't opt out of, even if I don't want those channels. Your mileage may vary about that fee, because those with only 1 regional sports network (RSN) near them will get billed $11 extra, and those with none won't get charged.
DirecTV Stream's $75 per month package has some neat features for sports fans, You'll get stats for sports games, and a neat auto-extend feature so your live games won't get cut off if they go long, but I'm not really looking to spend $2 to $5 more for either of those. Especially when it doesn't offer the bundling that Hulu does.
Hulu + Live TV's pulling me back with one channel YouTube TV doesn't have
There's one other reason why I'm switching. Hulu + Live TV has one channel I want that YouTube TV doesn't: Vice TV. Yes, the media empire that's reportedly headed to bankruptcy also has a cable network. That channel is about to debut the latest season of Dark Side of The Ring, a docuseries about some of the worst moments in pro wrestling.
This 10 episode season is supposed to cover such curious characters as Marty Jannetty, Adrian Adonis, Bam Bam Bigelow and Abdullah the Butcher. The good news for me, though, is that Vice isn't only on Hulu. It's also on Sling TV.
We all have some curious little show or channel that may sound weird to others, but we can't wait for. This is mine. I won't judge you for yours.
Outlook: I'm admittedly wary of Hulu + Live TV
Way back in the summer of 2021, I tested Hulu + Live TV as I prepared to cut the cord. And, back then, it had one problem that kicked it off the list for me: semi-unreliable streams.
As I wrote, "the shows looked great," but "about once every two hours or so, it would freeze. I'd have to hit pause and play, or move to a different show and back to un-stick it." If I this happens again, I might switch right back to YouTube TV or Sling. Heck, YouTube could pry me back (once Dark Side of the Ring is over), if it offers multiview that works with all channels, not just specific sports.
I'm also not a huge fan of how Hulu's live TV service lives in the same app as Hulu itself. This leads to confusions about if you're playing a DVR version of a show or the Hulu on-demand version, and the latter inserts unskippable ads.
The upside of all of this is that these services offer month-to-month billing, giving consumers the freedom to move back and forth, testing the waters. Hulu, YouTube and Sling all almost offer the best set of features for my needs, and I'll happily switch between them. Especially when the alternative is getting locked into a multi-year contract.