Here’s the thing about businesses – you either create a niche, or you offer something extra, often by expanding the range of your products. As far as the online streaming market is concerned, the level of competition is tremendous, with a horde of rivals taking birth every now and then. If you aren’t already aware, the cord-cutting movement is currently at it’s peak and cable TV is witnessing a steady dip in subscribers. Most companies that are promoting cord-cutting, facilitate modern TV-viewing techniques which entail on-demand videos. Cord-cutters have been watching reruns of TV series and the same movie titles for about a decade, but now, they want more. Not only them but also the older generation who don’t get the concept of “binge-watching” expect something more to finally forsake cable TV.
The Transition from On-Demand TV to Live TV:
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a couple of new entrants in the media streaming industry. Some of the most notable ones include Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and Playstation Vue. However, what they had to offer was totally different from the pre-existing companies like Netflix. They targeted the segment of audience who – A. Weren’t happy with Cable TV service but B. Preferred watching the content live. They introduced online Live TV streaming which allowed users to catch their favorite TV show or an important game live, without having to pay a hefty price or following a rigid programming schedule.
In the midst of all this streaming-novelty, Hulu identified a big opportunity. They too came out with a new service called Hulu with Live TV.
A Brief Introduction to Hulu with Live TV:
If you already know what Hulu Live TV is all about, you may skip this part and move on to the rest of the review. In case you’re alien to Hulu’s latest service, keep reading.
Last year, Hulu launched a brand new service called Hulu with Live TV (in BETA version), joining the echelon of other Live TV services such as Sling TV. Hulu’s new feature offers an expansive range of broadcast television networks across a variety of content including TV series, Movies, news, and sports. What differentiates Hulu from it’s competitors is the fact that if you’re subscribed to Hulu Live TV, you also get access to the on-demand content on the platform, including Hulu originals. All of this, at a lower price compared to a Cable TV subscription.
In our opinion, this is quite a clever move since it muddles the distinctions between video-on-demand and live programming services while drawing in a wider range of audience.
How Much Does It Cost?
As of now, there are two plans available. The basic one called Live TV Only is priced at $38.99 per month, offering just the Live TV channels without a free trial. However, for only $1 extra, you get Live TV plus Hulu’s on-demand content. If you’re unsure about spending that big an amount for a new service, Hulu also offers a 7-day free trial to help you decide whether to continue or not. Note that the free trial can only be availed with the second plan. Also, this price is quite reasonable considering the number of features and the amount of content one gets when pitted against a cable TV package. Unfortunately, the $39.99/month plan is filled with commercials. If you want an ad-free experience, you’d have to shell out $4 more, i.e. total $43 per month. You may also like how much does Netflix cost?
What’s Included (and What’s Not):
There’s a slew of features that come with the above mentioned plan. Let’s take a quick look:
- Content from over 50 TV networks
- Unlimited access to Hulu Originals and other on-demand shows and movies totaling up to roughly 3,500 titles.
- Two Simultaneous Screens
- 50 Hours of Cloud DVR Storage so that you never miss an episode again.
Here’s what you do not get as part of the plan but can add to your package separately if required:
- Unlimited Screens at $14.99/month
- Enhance DVR (200 hours) at $14.99/month
- Enhanced DVD + Unlimited Screens combined package at $19.99/month
- Showtime at $8.99/month
- Cinemax at $9.99/month
- HBO channel at $14.99/month (introduced recently)
You’re perhaps raising an eyebrow at this point given the number of add-ons. We were also quite bummed by the fact that so many features need to be purchased independent of the plan. Let’s assume that a user opts for maximum number of features, the total monthly cost would come up to roughly $98, which is ridiculous. It defeats the whole purpose of competing against Cable TV subscription. The only saving grace here is the ability to stream online and have access to on-demand content in addition to Live TV channels.
Channels and On-Demand Content:
As we mentioned earlier, you get to watch a program as it’s being aired from over 50-60 different channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Disney, FX, Bravo, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Syfy, TNT, YES, CNN, CNBC, ESPN, MSNBC, Chiller, HGTV, National Geographic, Viceland, Travel, and more. These channels feature entertainment shows, movies, news, sports, and informative content.
Hulu’s on-demand content is ornamented with syndicated TV series, popular movies, and originally produced shows. Some of the most popular shows on the platform are Seinfeld, Southpark, Family Guy, and Fear the Walking Dead. If you’re a fan of HBO shows like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire, you can add HBO channel to the package and enjoy watching these shows. You can also watch movies like Creed, Cabin Fever, Babadook, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and The Usual Suspects.
Hulu has taken giant leaps towards making quality content themselves and have managed to do so successfully. The Live TV plan gives you access to hit Hulu originals such as The Path, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Mindy Project, 11.22.63, Casual, and Shut Eye.
While using the platform ourselves, we did notice that the Viacom network was missing entirely. Channels such as Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, CMT, MTV, and VH1 are not seen anywhere on Hulu. You cannot even add these separately. That could be a big flaw for some users.
Supported Devices and Availability:
Hulu is supported on almost every platform. As of today, you can use the following devices/platforms to stream on Hulu Live TV:
- Android devices (phones & tablets)
- iOS devices (phones & tablets)
- Google Chromecast
- Apple TV
- Xbox One
You’d be happy to know that just a couple of days ago, Hulu launched their overhauled app on Amazon Fire TV. What’s more? Very soon, you’d also be able to access Hulu Live TV on Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Mac and Windows devices.
As of now, Hulu Live TV can only be enjoyed in the U.S. Note that the content may differ from one state to another. Some of the channels that maybe available in New York, may not be available in other regions.
How is the Interface?
From a plain green and white color scheme to a gorgeous teal overlapped with green, from a clunky layout to a much cleaner one, Hulu’s design and interface have come a long way. Unfortunately, we did come across a few flies in the ointment. Firstly, there was a complete lack of a channel guide, something that we get with a traditional TV subscription. This definitely makes browsing a lot more tedious. Instead, you’ll be prompted to enter your favorite TV shows and channels upon signing-in. Secondly, at times, we were thrown back on the main page in the middle of the stream. This happened when we either tried fast-forwarding a show (on-demand), or due to some unknown error.
As far as the video quality is concerned, we were pleasantly surprised. Hulu Live TV offers content in 720p, 1080p, and even 4k quality for select titles. The Live TV channels are mostly available in HD. Also, streaming was not an issue on any of the devices mentioned above. The interface is relatively uniform across platforms.
What We Loved:
Hulu Live TV definitely shines in certain criteria. Here are a few things we really liked
- Modern UI and Design
- Huge number of supported platforms
- Offers everything under one roof
- Great integration of live streaming and on-demand content
What We Didn’t Like:
- No Channel Guide
- Excessive Add-Ons burning a hole in the pocket
- Lack of a finished product
- Too many commercials under the basic plan
All in all, Hulu Live TV is a great attempt from Hulu. When stacked against it’s competitors, Hulu does outperform in most of the areas. It offers more Live TV channels than other services, for the price you’re charged. Plus, no other services offer original series and on-demand content bundled together with live streaming. There are a few bugs in the interface since it’s still an unfinished product. Having said that, if you’re looking for one service that does it all, Hulu is definitely worth checking out. In case you think that the monthly cost is on the steeper side for a BETA version, we’d advice you to wait it out till they introduce the finished product.