Local TV coverage is what separates the top live TV streaming services from the rest. Some, like Philo, don’t even try. And that’s fine for many viewers. But for most, having local network affiliates is critical. Hulu + Live TV provides excellent coverage. We’ll look at just how good it is below.
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Local Channels in the US
The United States has a distinctly complicated television ecosystem. Originally, all channels were distributed over-the-air — captured by consumers via antenna and displayed on their TVs. And this can still be done with modern high-definition digital antennas. But most people don’t want to mess with that and location is still an important factor.
There are two kinds of local channels: network affiliates and independents. The independent channels can be very interesting but in most areas, the important ones are network affiliates. There are many networks but, again, the most important are the Big 4: ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC.
What Channels Does Hulu Provide
Hulu + Live TV provides the Big 4 channels basically everywhere. When there isn’t a local affiliate, they provide a regional feed. So its coverage is as good as you will get from any cable company.
The main competition is from DIRECTV STREAM, FuboTV, and YouTube TV:
- DIRECTV STREAM: Provides comparable service on the networks but with some missing channels in extremely remote areas.
- FuboTV: Excellent coverage but relies a lot on regional feeds for ABC where Hulu + Live TV provides the actual local channels. FuboTV does, however, provide access for the Virgin Islands, which none of the other services do.
- YouTube TV: Provides very similar coverage but like DIRECTV STREAM misses some very remote channels.
The CW can almost be considered a fifth network. Hulu + Live TV (along with YouTube TV) provides almost universal access to this network. DIRECTV STREAM and FuboTV also provide access but it is far from complete.
PBS is another important network. Hulu + Live TV does not provide it. Currently, DIRECTV STREAM and YouTube TV are the only ones that do. However, you can sign-up for a free account with your local station and watch it via its own app, so we don’t consider this an important omission.
Similarly, Hulu + Live TV (and YouTube TV) are missing access to MyNetwork TV. But it is a small network.
All of the streaming services provide a hodgepodge of independent channels. Hulu + Live TV is the same. But we aren’t in a position to generalize. You will just need to check.
Of the four main streaming services, Hulu + Live TV is least oriented toward Spanish-language channels. And this shows in their support of local channels too.
The only local Spanish-language station it offers (and it does so widely) is Telemundo. It does not offer Univision, which DIRECTV STREAM, FuboTV, and YouTube TV all offer widely. And it does not offer UniMás, which FuboTV and YouTube TV offer widely.
Local Sports Channels
If there is one area where Hulu + Live TV is lacking in its local coverage, it is with its selection of regional sports networks (RSNs). But this isn’t hard to understand when you consider it provides Disney+ and ESPN+ for only $69.99/mo. That doesn’t provide a lot of room to pile on a bunch of RSNs.
That said, Hulu + Live TV does provide RSNs in select locations. They provide all the NBC Sports RSNs in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington. And they provide SNY (home of the Mets) for viewers in New York.
YouTube TV provides exactly the same RSNs. FuboTV gives access to a number of others as well. But the king of RSNs is DIRECTV STREAM. If RSNs are important to you, you should definitely check out their services.
Finding Out More
As a subscriber, it doesn’t really matter how good Hulu + Live TV’s local channel coverage is. All that matters is if it offers the local channels you want where you live.
Luckily, Hulu + Live TV provides a Zip Code Lookup Tool, right on its home page. Just go there, enter your zip code, and it will tell you all the channels you will get if you sign-up.
When it comes to the Big 4 networks, Hulu + Live TV is the best streaming service around. If you are looking for more exotic channels, it still provides good coverage. Its only real weakness is that it provides limited coverage of RSNs, but it still does as well or better than most of the industry.