These days, it’s rare enough for a streaming service to simply present itself at face value. Oftentimes, there are several different tiers and plans available to subscribers. What other service proves a better example of these tiers and plans than Hulu?
With Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV in direct competition with one another, it begs the question: What’s the actual difference between the two? What sets the two apart? As it turns out, quite a bit. Let’s compare and contrast the two, weighing their respective pros and cons in the process.
Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Hulu||Hulu + Live TV|
|First Launched||October 29th, 2007||May 3rd, 2017 (beta)|
|Price Per Month||$7.99 (with ads)|
$14.99 (without ads)
|$69.99 (with ads)|
$82.99 (without ads)
|Available Bundles||Disney Bundle Duo, Disney Bundle Trio||Hulu (With Ads) + Live TV, Disney+ (With Ads) and ESPN+ (With Ads); Hulu (Without Ads) + Live TV, Disney+ (Without Ads) and ESPN+ (With Ads)|
|Number of Titles||Approx. 2,500 films and 1,650 television shows||Approx. 50,000+ TV episodes and movies including 85+ live TV channels|
|Number of Subscribers||More than 47 million||Less than 5 million|
|Number of Simultaneous Streams||2||2 (more for a price)|
Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV: What’s the Difference?
These side-by-side specs do a good job of outlining the basic distinctions between Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV. However, there’s more to the debate than just these things. It’s worth taking an even closer look at the key differences between the two, paying extra close attention to factors such as price per month, exclusive features, and available content. Let’s dive in.
Price Per Month
The most obvious difference between the bunch is the drastic divide between price points. Hulu comes with two options: Hulu with ads and Hulu without. For Hulu with ads, it’s going to cost you $7.99 a month (or $79.99 a year, if you choose to pay annually.) For Hulu without ads, that price increases to $14.99 a month with no option to save some money by paying annually.
You can also bundle this basic Hulu plan with a Disney+ and ESPN+ subscription. These bundles range from $9.99 to $19.99 a month, depending on if you want ads or not. Hulu + Live TV, on the other hand, costs quite a bit more than this. At its most expensive, you can get an entire year of Hulu with ads for the price of just one month at Hulu + Live TV’s top tier. Its monthly price is set at $69.99.
It gets you a Hulu subscription with ads, more than 85 live television channels, and a Disney+ and ESPN+ subscription as well (both with ads). If you opt for the $82.99 tier, you’ll get the same number of live channels and the same ESPN+ subscription with ads, but both your Hulu and Disney+ streaming content will be ad-free.
Nearly as important as the price per month? The kind of features you can expect from each tier of this popular streaming service. As far as Hulu is concerned, the number of features available to subscribers is understandably pretty basic. There’s the aforementioned ad-free up-charge, for one.
Additionally, you can opt for a number of add-on packages such as HBO Max, Starz, Showtime, and Cinemax subscriptions (for a price, of course). Beyond this, what you see is what you get with your basic Hulu subscription.
Hulu + Live TV, on the other hand, is so jam-packed with special features and options that it’s not even funny. From the number of add-on channels and packages you can tack onto your monthly subscription to the option to pay for additional screens to stream from, Hulu + Live TV has a great number of special features and supplements unavailable through a basic Hulu subscription.
Not to mention, you automatically get access to that aforementioned Disney+ and ESPN+ bundle through Hulu + Live TV. No need for an additional price.
Lastly, it’s worth going over the kind of content you can expect to find on both Hulu and Hulu + Live TV. At its heart, the content you’ll encounter on Hulu isn’t all that different from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or any other basic streamer.
There are thousands of movies, thousands of TV shows, and plenty of original award-winning programming. Hulu is primarily owned by Disney, which means there are lots of exclusive titles from the Walt Disney Company (including their newly acquired library of 21st Century Fox titles).
Hulu + Live TV, by comparison, is far larger. Not only do you get everything that you can access with a basic Hulu subscription, but you also have access to the entire library of content from Disney+ and ESPN+, as well.
This is in addition to the selection of live television networks streaming through Hulu + Live TV, which currently exceeds 85. Throw in some add-on packages, including extra channels and premium cable networks, and you end up with well over 50,000 titles to choose from. A basic Hulu subscription gets you a mere fraction of that at around 5,000 titles in all.
The History of Hulu
When you think of streaming services, you typically picture a small group of people — or maybe even a sole individual — breaking off from a larger company in order to form their own industry disruptor. Hulu has quite a different origin story, though.
They are less a product of a small group of big thinkers than a large collaboration between the top television networks of the time. In other words, instead of being a lone wolf, Hulu was formed by a whole pack. Initially conceived as a way to watch new television episodes, the service debuted on October 29th, 2007.
In the beginning, top minds from AOL, MSN, NBCUniversal, Yahoo, and MySpace came together to formulate this one-of-a-kind VOD platform. NBC, FOX, ABC, FX… all the top names in television at the time were ready and willing to provide the most recent episodes of all their hit series for a limited time on Hulu’s site.
For several years, this worked remarkably well for them. But, as time went on (and rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video began to emerge), it became clear that other people’s content simply wouldn’t be enough to keep Hulu afloat. Thus, in 2010, Hulu Plus was born. Not to be confused with the Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV debate, Hulu Plus was essentially the foundation for the Hulu we know and love today.
Distinguishing itself from the free version of Hulu by offering complete seasons of the time’s top television shows as well as unblocked access to the latest TV episodes, Hulu Plus’s library was suddenly much closer in spirit to Netflix and Amazon Prime’s than it was before.
Before long, it proved much more lucrative than the free Hulu plan, and the latter was subsequently dropped. Hulu Plus then rebranded to just Hulu.
How Hulu + Live TV Compares
Hulu officially dropped the “Plus” moniker in 2015, only to soon pick it back up again (in a different context) in 2017. Rumors began circulating in early 2016 that Hulu had been tinkering with the idea of implementing live television streaming to its pre-existing service for an additional fee.
As a joint collaboration between several television networks and production studios, it seemed (and still seems) like a natural progression for the streamer. (Especially considering they originated as a way to watch new television episodes.)
In November 2016, Hulu started making important moves and cutting key deals with the networks that mattered most. By the time 2016 gave way to 2017, they had quite the arsenal: FOX, FX, FOX Sports, FOX News, ABC, Freeform, ESPN, Disney Channel, TBS, TCM, TNT, CNN… the list went on.
Nearly every major television station wanted to be a part of this new and exciting disruption in the streaming space. By the summer of 2017, the newly named Hulu + Live TV was ready for launch. It quickly garnered a million subscribers in a year and has since grown to nearly 5 million.
Comparing Hulu + Live TV’s subscription numbers to that of rival streaming television providers Sling TV (less than 2.5 million) and Philo (around one million), it’s clear to see that the service is a hit. Not only does it compete with its fellow streaming television providers, but it also serves as a competitor for basic Hulu.
Sure, Hulu has more subscribers — around 47 million — but Hulu + Live TV has more to offer its subscribers. It’s easy to see how the Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV debate shakes out: the former has the lower price, but the latter has more to offer.
Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV: Pros and Cons
|Pros of Hulu||Cons of Hulu|
|At $7.99 a month, it’s one of the most affordable streamers around||Boasts a much smaller streaming library compared to other rivals|
|Offers access to new episodes of currently airing network cable shows||Ad-free plan costs $14.99 a month, which is decidedly much more pricey|
|Great original movies and TV shows||Lots of overlapping content with Amazon Prime Video and Disney+|
|Disney ownership means the potential for Star Wars and MCU original content||Notorious for under-promoting original movies and shows, making them harder to find|
|Pros of Hulu + Live TV||Cons of Hulu + Live TV|
|Includes 85+ live-streaming television channels||Only available to stream on two screens at once and up-charges you to unlock more|
|Comes with Disney+ and ESPN+ subscriptions||Costs more for ad-free Hulu and Disney+|
|Many add-ons available for a custom viewing experience||The more add-ons, the higher the price increases — making it easy to pass $100/month|
|Offers NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and other channels not found on Sling TV or Philo||Much more expensive than competitors such as Sling TV and Philo|
5 Must-Know Facts About Hulu
- While Hulu originated as a collaboration between multiple studios and networks, today it’s shared by just two: Disney and NBC. The Walt Disney Company has 67% ownership, while NBCUniversal has the other 33%.
- NBCUniversal has agreed to fork over their remaining 33% of Hulu as early as 2024. This move would come at a hefty price (north of $9 billion at least), but would give Disney sole ownership of the service as a result. With this, Disney would control two top streamers in the Streaming Wars.
- Disney — and, as a result, Hulu — will be the streaming home of Sony Pictures films until 2026. Come 2026, Sony could renew this deal to extend it even further into the future.
- Hulu + Live TV was initially priced at $39.99 back in 2017. As with many streamers, it has since increased exponentially. The base price is now $69.99 with an additional tier at $82.99.
- U.S. News & World Report named Hulu + Live TV as 2022’s best live television streaming service.
Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV: Summary
As you’ve seen above, the difference between Hulu vs Hulu + Live TV boils down to more than the simple fact that one has live-streaming television channels and the other doesn’t. In addition to this obvious difference, Hulu + Live TV also offers subscribers Disney+ and ESPN+ subscriptions.
The same cannot be said for a basic Hulu subscription, which is exactly what you get: Hulu and Hulu alone. You’ve also got a drastic difference in pricing, with Hulu ranging from $7.99 to $14.99 a month and Hulu + Live TV ranging from $69.99 to $82.99 a month.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Dennis Diatel/Shutterstock.com.