5 Things to Know About Hulu's New Live Streaming Service
It's been a big week at Hulu, with its hit The Handmaid's Tale renewed, the announcement of its new original programming slate and the long-awaited release of its package of streaming TV channels for cord-cutters. Now the service is jumping into the live streaming space by launching Hulu With Live TV.
Hulu With Live TV (currently in beta) gives cord-cutters an alternative—albeit, very similar—option to services like Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue, which offer streaming packages mixed with live TV channels at a significantly lower price than a traditional cable or satellite TV subscription.
But is this new Hulu service for you? Here are five basic things to know about Hulu With Live TV:
1. What You Get
Hulu touts the service as "your favorite live sports, news, entertainment, and more." The lineup includes NBCUniversal networks (USA Network, MSNBC, Bravo, Syfy, E!, etc.), Fox (FX, FXX, National Geographic, Fox News Channel, etc.), Scripps (HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, etc.), A&E (A&E, History, Lifetime, etc.), Turner (TNT, TBS, TCM, CNN, Cartoon Network, truTV) and Disney (Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD, etc.). Sports channels in my area included ESPN networks, BTN, CBS Sports Network, NBCSN, Golf Channel, FS1, FS2 and the Fox Sports regional network.
2. What Hulu With Live TV Costs
The basic package starts at $39.99 per month for 50 channels and 50 hours of cloud DVR storage, with a $43.99 option that removes commercials from on demand content. There are also add-ons like 200 hours of cloud DVR storage ($14.99 per month), more concurrent screens ($14.99 per month) and Showtime ($8.99 per month). If you're already paying for Hulu, that cost is covered in Hulu With Live TV's basic plan.
Switching from cable to over-the-top services won't save you as much money as you think.
3. What You'll Need to Watch
At launch, Hulu With Live TV is watchable on Apple TV (4th generation), Microsoft Xbox One, Google Chromecast, and iOS and Android devices. Hulu says support for Macs, PCs, Samsung Smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices is coming soon. Depending on where you live, you still might need a good, over-the-air antenna to watch live local broadcast channels.
4. What's Missing
On the plus side, Hulu With Live TV is missing the equipment rentals and installation hassles of old-school cable and satellite TV. It's also missing those dozens of channels you never watched but were paying for anyway with a traditional pay-TV package. The minuses: Hulu With Live TV is missing channels from Viacom (MTV, VH1, TV Land, Spike, etc.), AMC Networks (AMC, IFC, BBC America, WE tv), HBO, Starz and Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, etc.).
Also, unless you live in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago or San Francisco, Hulu doesn't offer local TV content from ABC, Fox, NBC and CBS. (When I checked on which of big four broadcast networks (no sign of The CW) were available in my area, it revealed "This channel is only available On Demand for your ZIP code. National programming, including most shows and movies, is typically available the day after air on broadcast TV.") Again, keep the rabbit-ears antenna handy.
'Twin Peaks,' 'Billions' and more are among the lineup!
5. Should You Cut the Cord for It?
Even at its early stage, Hulu's offering appears to be the best total value with the most features of all the current live TV streaming services, and it should improve as more channels and local TV markets are added. But like every streaming service, Hulu With Live TV has its advantages and disadvantages, and customers will have to figure out which channels and services they're willing to sacrifice in order to get their monthly TV bill down to $40 per month. When you consider the total cost of add-ons and separate premium services (HBO, Starz), cutting the cord might not save as much money as you might expect.