In 2017, Hulu plans to launch a live TV streaming service that will include live sports, live news and live entertainment events. In total, subscribers to the new Hulu live TV streaming service will receive access to content from 35 different TV networks. While pricing has not yet been solidified, the current price reported by the Wall Street Journal is $40/month.
While that’s a steep increase from what Hulu subscribers currently pay ($7.99 per month for ad-supported video content and $11.99 per month for ad-free video content), it’s still significantly cheaper than what most cable and satellite TV subscribers pay on a monthly basis. As a result, the move by Hulu is viewed as yet another attack on the big cable companies, which have already been hard-hit by defections of the so-called “cord cutters.”
To make the new live TV streaming service as successful as possible, Hulu recently announced an expanded partnership with Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox. Those are two huge names, because both of them control a number of important TV networks. With Disney, for example, Hulu also gets access to content from ABC and from ESPN.
The current TV lineup for the live streaming Hulu includes Fox, ABC, ESPN, FX, National Geographic, the Disney Channel, CNN, TNT and TBS. And that’s not all – Hulu has said that it will continue to add new content partners before a final launch in 2017.
At a glance, it’s possible to see how the Hulu offering would compare with a basic cable lineup. You’d be able to watch news on CNN or Fox, sports on ESPN, and kids’ programming on some of the Disney networks. Plus, if ABC broadcasted an important live event – say, a big sporting event or the Oscars or the Grammys – you’d be able to watch that as well. It would all be live, at no additional cost.
If you combine this live streaming TV option with what Hulu already offers – a library of TV and hit movies, Hulu originals like “The Path,” “Chance,” and “11.22.63,” and exclusive series streaming only on Hulu, it’s possible to see how Hulu is covering much of what TV viewers want and demand. The big criticism of Hulu previously was that TV shows were only available the day after they aired on television – with the live streaming TV option, you’d be able to watch the TV episode on the night that it airs.
Hulu has referred to this as a mix of “linear TV” (TV that appears at a scheduled time) and “on-demand TV.” It’s not enough just to offer a library or archive of shows – you also have to offer some mix of live TV to be successful. So there will now be a mix of price points for subscribers to choose from – you can pay one monthly rate only for recorded shows and movies, another monthly rate for live TV content, and yet another monthly rate for a mix of the two.
Taking a bigger picture view, Hulu is not just taking on the traditional cable companies – think Charter or Comcast – it’s also taking on the combined behemoth that includes AT&T and Time Warner. (And, to a certain extent, Hulu is also taking on Google, which has been trying to turn YouTube into a cable competitor with different entertainment channels.)
Going forward, it’s clear that it’s not just content and it’s not just distribution that matters – it’s a mix of the two. Hulu hopes that it’s found the right mix of both to appeal to people consuming linear and on-demand video on all their digital devices.