Hulu’s live TV streaming service has been rumored for quite some time. At the company’s annual Upfront presentation today, it announced the beta version of the service. You can now sign up for Hulu with Live TV, a $40-per-month package that includes all the benefits of Hulu’s monthly $7.99 streaming service while adding live TV streams from over 50 channels. It’s clear from the service’s initial offerings that Hulu tried to fill in the weak spots of its competitors while tempting potential subscribers with an interface that puts all their favorite content, live or on-demand, in one place.
Let’s start off with the available channels: Hulu with Live TV has all the major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—along with a variety of news, entertainment, and sports channels. Hulu struck a deal with Scripps Network to provide channels including HGTV, Travel Channel, and Food Network, and it’s also launching with other popular networks including TNT, A&E, FX, USA, Syfy, CNN, TBS, and Viceland. Many major sports networks are included as well, like CBS Sports, FS1, FS2, ESPN, ESPNU, and NBCSN. In comparison, for just $5 more than YouTube TV’s $35-per-month service, you’ll get ten more channels from Hulu’s service. Hulu was likely able to bolster its at-launch channel list thanks to its owners: Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, and Time Warner. But as with any live TV streaming service, the total channel count might be slightly different depending on where you live.
Hulu with Live TV’s $40 price also includes the company’s $7.99 streaming features, so you’ll have access to the on-demand shows available in that monthly subscription in addition to live TV. One subscription also includes 50 hours of cloud DVR storage, six individual viewer profiles, and two simultaneous streams. While it offers the same number of viewer profiles as YouTube TV, Hulu’s service is subpar in the other two ways. YouTube TV gives you unlimited cloud DVR storage and three simultaneous streams at no extra cost, and even Sling TV’s beta cloud DVR service gives you 100 hours of storage. DirecTV Now remains the only service without cloud DVR functionality, but Hulu’s basic plan still provides fewer hours of storage than any other available plan.
Hulu counters this with a couple of add-on features: for an extra $14.99 per month you can get Enhanced Cloud DVR, which includes 200 hours of recording storage and lets you fast-forward through ads on those shows. There’s another $14.99-per-month extra called Unlimited Screens, which lets you and your family watch as many simultaneous live TV streams as you want—and gives you three outside-the-home streams as well. This extra sets Hulu with Live TV apart from the rest since you can’t increase the number of simultaneous live streams with any other service—you get what you get, and you can’t pay for more streams. Hulu also gives you the option to buy both of those extras for a discounted $19.99 per month instead of paying more for both separately.
Hulu currently only offers one channel extra, Showtime, for an additional $8.99 per month. It’s similar to YouTube TV with so few add-on channels, which is in stark contrast to Playstation Vue, Sling TV, and DirecTV Now that all offer plenty of add-on channels. But Hulu’s feature add-ons are unique, as the competition only lets customers pay for more content rather than more freedom to access that content. However, both Enhanced Cloud DVR and Unlimited Screens are likely to appeal to a limited audience. Only users who record a plethora of shows on a weekly basis will need the extra cloud DVR space, and only large families or groups of friends will need so many simultaneous streams.
But where Hulu with Live TV truly has a chance to shine is in its interface, both on mobile devices and TVs. The company’s promotional video shows it off as a way to watch any kind of content you want, whether it be on-demand or live, in the same place. It isn’t just the new “Hulu with Live TV” app—it’s the new Hulu app. You’ll use the same app no matter if you’re only a basic Hulu subscriber or a new Live TV subscriber. Hulu’s app is available on a bunch of devices as well, including Apple TV, Xbox One, and Chromecast, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, which gives you much more flexibility than YouTube TV’s. Hulu states it will support more devices soon, including Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices.
New subscribers can sign in on any device and start watching live TV immediately, and existing subscribers can sign in and import their Watchlist so they can access that content and live TV streams side by side. Each user will get personalized content recommendations from Hulu depending on what they’ve watched recently, and each user can save favorite shows and follow specific sports teams. Parents will likely appreciate the Kids Mode they can activate that will only show kid-friendly programming and removes the ability to search and browse Hulu’s full content library.
Overall, Hulu with Live TV launched ready to fight hard against the competition. The monthly $40 subscription cost is in line with other providers, and the extra 10 channels certainly gives it an advantage over YouTube TV. However, that advantage may not last long as YouTube TV continues to add more channels to its base lineup. But neither Sling TV, Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now, nor YouTube TV can offer the all-encompassing experience that Hulu can for those who stream a lot of on-demand video but want live TV as well. Hulu with Live TV makes the most sense for current Hulu subscribers because it essentially siphons all available content into one place and provides live TV streaming that’s more affordable than cable.
The Hulu with Live TV beta is available now, and you can sign up for a seven-day free trial before paying the $40-per-month charge.