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Hulu’s new live-streaming service lets you watch dozens of channels for $40

It includes Hulu’s other subscription service — but not the most popular show on TV.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Want to watch TV, delivered live and on-demand, over the web, for about $40 a month?

You already have a bunch of options. Now Hulu is offering another one: Its Hulu live TV service is available today (in “beta”) for $39.95 a month.

That $39.95 will get you several dozen channels, which you can watch on your phone or connected TV devices like Xbox and Apple TV; more devices, like Roku, are on the way. It also includes Hulu’s subscription video service, which gives you access to old TV shows and movies, as well as Hulu originals like “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

If you want to spend more, you can pay for extras like a cloud DVR. You can also add Showtime, but not HBO, to the mix.

As we’ve discussed before, the main difference between Hulu and competitors like YouTube, Sling and AT&T is that Hulu is owned by TV programmers. Which means that it’s the first time the TV guys are selling a pay TV service directly to TV viewers.

Which means the TV guys are competing with their usual customers — the pay TV providers that normally retail this stuff.

The other important thing to note about Hulu Live, strategery-wise, is what’s not in there: Anything from cable programmers Viacom, Discovery and AMC.

That’s not unexpected. Hulu is owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast* and Time Warner, and those guys have (almost) all of their channels in there, including sports via ESPN, Fox Sports and some regional sports channels. So you can’t add much more to that mix and market it as a “skinny bundle” priced below conventional TV.

Still, that means that Hulu Live will have significant gaps for some viewers. Most notably, it won’t have AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the most popular show on TV.

It also explains why AMC, Viacom and other cable programmers are talking about creating their own, sports-free version of Hulu.

I’ve taken a couple quick tours of Hulu live, and it looks good. I’m particularly interested in Hulu’s attempt to show you stuff it thinks you will like, based on what you tell Hulu you like when you sign up.


Hulu executives have been watching the competition for the past year-plus and noted the stumbles those guys have had getting out of the gate. They think they have a better user experience and that they’ll be able to dodge some of the technical snafus.

But there’s no way to find out if that’s so until they’re out in the wild.

Other quick notes:

  • Like other digital pay TV services, Hulu live doesn’t have all of the local affiliate deals it needs at launch. That means subscribers in some cities may not be able to watch programming carried by their local broadcast stations live, though they could watch it after it airs. Hulu thinks most of those deals will get done in the coming months.
  • If Hulu doesn’t get those deals done by next fall, it may impact its ability to deliver NFL games — for some people, the main reason to pay for TV.
  • Like other digital pay TV services, Hulu will let viewers watch shows on demand — but in most cases it won’t let them fast-forward through commercials. If you want the equivalent of the DVR you can get with traditional TV, which does let you skip past commercials and anything else you want, Hulu will sell that to you, with 200 hours worth of storage, for an extra $15 a month.

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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