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Hulu Aims to Reinvent Live TV Experience

Hulu Aims to Reinvent Live TV Experience
Hulu Aims to Reinvent Live TV Experience

Hulu on Wednesday announced a new live-streaming television service for US$39.99 per month, which will place the company in direct competition with newly launched services from DirecTV Now, YouTube and other OTT (over-the-top) content providers.

The Hulu with Live TV beta will offer 50 channels of live-streaming television -- including sports, news, entertainment, children's programming and local network affiliates -- along with the existing Hulu on-demand video, without set-up costs or hidden fees.

Hulu also announced an agreement with Scripps Networks Interactive to provide lifestyle channels, including HGTV, Travel Channel and Food Network, to the live-streaming and on-demand services.

The new Hulu service also will include 50 hours of cloud-based DVR storage, allowing users to access two streams at once and create up to six separate accounts.

The services can be viewed on XBox One, Apple TV (Fourth Gen.), and iOS and Android devices, as well as Chromecast. Integration is pending with additional devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Samsung Smart TVs, Roku and others.

"Nearly a decade ago, Hulo forever redefined the way people watch TV," said Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins. "Today, as we add live sports, news and entertainment and introduce a more intuitive Hulu, we want to redefine the way people experience TV."

Viewers' Options

Hulu is now the only service to offer a combination of live-streaming television with on-demand television and movies, and original series and films, according to the company.

Its live-streaming lineup is one of the most comprehensive in the industry: news from CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News and Fox Business; sports from CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports and TNT; and entertainment from A&E, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, E!, Disney Channel, TBS, USA, Lifetime, National Geographic and others.

The service includes the Hulu library of more than 3,500 movies and television shows, including current and legacy shows and original programming, such as the controversial new series The Handmaid's Tale.

Users can subscribe to the Hulu's no-commercial plan for another $4.00 a month.

Users can also surface professional sports, including MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA and NHL. Additional services are available, including enhanced cloud DVR for $14.99 a month, which includes up to 200 hours of recording and no limits on how many shows can be recorded at the same time.

Another $14.99 per month gives viewers unlimited screens, meaning no limit on the number of channels being watched at the same time. For a total of $19.99, viewers can get unlimited screens and enhanced DVR. Showtime is available for another $8.99 per month.

Competition for Cable

The Hulu launch is a significant development, particularly with the inclusion of the cloud-based DVR service, said Tim Mulligan, senior analyst at Midia Research.

"It is also a recognition by its part-owner 21st Century Fox that the best way to hedge against cord-cutting is invest and actively support streaming pay-TV, which is effectively what Hulu has become," he told TechNewsWorld.

The cable television industry is at a critical juncture with new live-streaming video services attracting cable subscribers, said telecom analyst Jeff Kagan.

At the end of 2016, more than 49 million homes subscribed to at least one OTT service, representing 53 percent of U.S. households with WiFi, according to data from comScore. Netflix was the leader, reaching 75 percent of OTT users, followed by YouTube with 53 percent, Amazon Video with 33 percent, and Hulu at 17 percent.

"The cable tv industry just never learned about competing and getting close to the customer," Kagan told TechNewsWorld. "That's why service stunk and customers hated them. All the industry players paid attention to was Wall Street."

For example, at AT&T, which owns both DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, total linear video subscribers fell during the first quarter 2017, even though the company enrolled more than 200,000 DirecTV Now subscribers between its November launch and March 1.

Competitive pressure from cable and the increasing number of over-the-top video alternatives resulted in a decline in video subscribers, CFO John Stephens noted during AT&T's first-quarter investor call.

Still the company "felt very good" about the direction DirecTV Now was headed, he said, noting that it was adding 14 Fox affiliates.

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