Hulu Launches Live Television Service

Courtesy of Hulu

The service costs $40 per month and includes more than 50 networks, including HGTV, Travel Channel and Food Network through a new deal with Scripps Networks.

One year after revealing plans to introduce a live television bundle to its existing video-on-demand offerings, Hulu has launched the service with more than 50 channels. 

The live experience, announced Wednesday at the streamer's Upfront presentation at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, costs $40 a month and comes with 50 hours of cloud DVR storage, the option to create six distinct profiles and the ability to have two streams running simultaneously. It is launching in beta, meaning that the streamer is expected to add more features to the service after its public debut.

Hulu — which reports that it has 47 million unique viewers — has been piecing together the package for its skinny bundle over the last several months, first inking deals with corporate owners Fox, ABC and Time Warner. In recent months it has added CBS and NBC, giving it the right to live-stream content from all four major broadcasters. On Wednesday the company announced that it has also added basic cable channels HGTV, Travel Channel and Food Network, which will also be available on Hulu's existing streaming service, through an affiliate agreement with Scripps Networks Interactive. A+E Networks also has a deal to include its channels on the service.

The base package for Hulu's live service comes with access to Hulu's on-demand offering with limited commercials, which on its own costs $8 per month. It will give live subscribers access to exclusive library content including FX series Atlanta as well as originals The Handmaid's Tale and The Path. Access to the no-commercial plan will cost an additional $4 per month. 

"By bringing together thousands of live, on-demand and library shows and movies — and serving them up in a uniquely personalized way — Hulu can now be a viewer's primary source of television," said CEO Mike Hopkins. "It's a natural extension of our business, and an exciting new chapter for Hulu." 

Since launching in 2008, Hulu — which is owned by 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal and minority shareholder Time Warner — has been known primarily as a home for next-day television. With the move to launch a live television experience, the company takes on not only cable television, but also a slew of services offering television over the Internet, including YouTube, Dish, AT&T and PlayStation.

Hulu has planned to set itself apart through a redesigned user experience that offers up a more personalized viewing experience. But at $40 a month — Hopkins has previously said that the service would cost less than $40 each month, and it comes in just one cent below at an official price of $39.99 — the service is priced in the middle of competitive offerings, with packages from SlingTV starting at $20. 

Hulu is offering customers the option to upgrade to an enhanced cloud DVR with 200 hours of recording storage for $15 per month or unlimited screens for $15 per month. Packaged together, the upgrades cost $20 a month. Showtime can also be added to the programming lineup for an additional $9 per month, and the company says it plans to include network add-ons soon.

The launch of the live service comes as Hulu continues to expand its content library, inking a deal to exclusively stream Atlanta and picking up new original series The First, from creator Beau Willimon (House of Cards), and Runaways, which is based in the Marvel universe. 

Of Hulu's 47 million viewers, 32 million watch ad-supported programming, according to the streamer. (Last year the private company reported a subscriber base of 12 million but has moved away from reporting that number.) Hulu will make two minutes of local commercial breaks each hour available for advertisers looking to gain access to that audience. The same inventory will be made available through Hulu's cloud DVR experience.