What You Need to Know About the Hulu Live Streaming Service

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The anticipation continues to build for the new Hulu Live Streaming Service, which is still expected to launch in early 2017. Ever since November, Hulu has been releasing more and more details of the service, so that it’s possible to put together a rough outline of what the service will include, as well as how much it might cost.

What streaming content will Hulu Live include?

As it stands now, Hulu Live has inked deals with four major content partners: Time Warner, Fox, Disney and CBS. In addition, Hulu executives have hinted that a deal with NBC Universal might be coming soon. As of now, viewers will get 35-40 different cable networks, all of them available as live streams, much as you’d get with traditional cable TV.

There’s a lot of great content here, primarily in three major areas: sports, entertainment and news. These are, essentially, the three reasons why you need a live streaming service and it looks like Hulu Live is trying to cover as many bases as possible here by partnering with the biggest and best content providers.

For sports content, Hulu Live viewers will get the following TV networks:

  • Fox Sports
  • All the ESPN networks (including ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3)
  • All of Fox’s regional sports programming
  • CBS Sports

For entertainment content, Hulu Live viewers will get the following TV networks:

  • CBS
  • TNT
  • TBS
  • Cartoon Network
  • Turner Classic Movies
  • Adult Swim
  • Freeform
  • National Geographic
  • NatGEO Wild
  • Disney
  • Disney Junior

And for news content, Hulu Live viewers will receive the following TV networks:

  • CNN
  • FOX News
  • FOX Business

Moreover, it looks like Hulu Live is trying to expand the partnership with CBS to include the CW Network and Showtime. As of now, Hulu Live won’t get the full current season of every series like “NCIS,” which is basically a way for CBS to carve out some exclusive content that it can include as part of its own streaming options. So there should probably be an asterisk next to “CBS” – Hulu Live viewers will get almost all of the current CBS content, but not all of it.

How much will it cost?

There are so many streaming services out there right now that cost is a very important consideration. For that reason, Hulu executives have been careful about tossing an exact dollar figure our there. Right now, the consensus appears to be that Hulu Live will cost about $40 per month.

For that price, you would get access to Hulu’s video on demand library, which current Hulu subscribers pay either $7.99 or $11.99 per month (depending on whether or not they get commercials with the content). It’s not clear yet whether that $40 price will include the ad-free content, or whether there might be a price bump to get rid of all the commercials. So a little basic math tells you that you’re essentially paying $10 for archived content and another $30 for streaming content.

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Which streaming service is most similar to Hulu Live?

In many ways, then, Hulu Live looks like it will a prized option for cable cord-cutters. You’re essentially getting all the best live streaming channels that you’d get on cable, for a lower price. Moreover, you’re also getting access to all of Hulu’s movies and TV shows, which was always the major allure of getting Hulu.

Thus, the streaming service that is most similar to Hulu Live is Sling TV, which for awhile was the only live streaming service with top cable networks like ESPN. The big question will be about price. Right now, Hulu Live is expected to be priced at $40 per month, but the current cost of Sling TV is just $20 per month. So that’s nearly double the price.

Who should get Hulu Live?

The core audience for Hulu Live will be people who enjoy watching the current seasons of hit TV shows, but who also want to watch the shows on their own schedule without having to tune in to the programming schedules of the major TV networks.

And that has always been one of the major selling points of Hulu – getting access to all the hit TV show episodes almost as soon as they air on the networks. Unlike Netflix, which has a very long wait before shows appear in its archive, Hulu was always about delivering episodes within a day of them airing on networks. So, if you missed your favorite TV show on a Tuesday night, you’d still be able to watch it later in the week.

How will Hulu Live differentiate itself from the competition?

Right now, Hulu executives are banking on the fact that its new streaming service can carve out a niche in the competitive streaming market. Unlike Netflix, it will have live streaming content and a huge library of TV shows. Unlike Sling TV, it will have a growing library of original content series, including “Casual” (nominated for a Golden Globe), “The Mindy Project” and “11.22.63.” And unlike any of the competing cable or satellite providers, which are starting to roll out their own streaming services, Hulu Live will be cheaper.

And the competitive differentiation goes beyond just content and price. One advantage that Hulu has been talking up is “The New Hulu Experience,” a new user interface for finding content more easily. This new interface will be easier to navigate and use, and possibly be as good as the Netflix user interface.

Moreover, there’s also the question of how many concurrent streams the new service will allow, as well as how many different platforms the service will support. These are all important questions, especially as more people than ever before consume streaming content on multiple devices. Will it be possible, then, for kids to watch Hulu TV in the living room while parents watch their shows in the bedroom?

The one big advantage that Hulu Live has over the competition is the built-in user base for Hulu, which is estimated to have 12 million subscribers. Presumably, Hulu will attempt to up-sell some of the people paying $11.99 per month to now pay $40 a month for the full streaming experience in addition to the rich archive of TV shows.

The good news for TV fans is that all this competition in the streaming space has opened up a number of great opportunities. Hulu Live, in many ways, is what cable TV should look like, but doesn’t: great live content, a great archive of current TV shows for viewing on demand, and just enough extras – like original programming – to keep things interesting.

By partnering with CBS, Time Warner, Fox and Disney, Hulu Live has just about completed that goal. If a few more partnerships – such as the rumored one with NBC Universal – fall into place, Hulu Live could emerge as the dominant live streaming service with tens of millions of subscribers. It’s easy to see why the big cable companies must be concerned.

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