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Hulu Launches Live TV Beta

Hulu used its annual Upfront Wednesday to launch a beta version of its long-anticipated live TV streaming service that starts at $39.99 per month, a price that includes a lineup of more than 50 channels, 50 hours of cloud DVR storage, and two simultaneous streams per account, along with a batch of premium add-on features and services.


The price in the baseline offering will also include Hulu’s ad-supported, premium SVOD service, which regularly sells for $7.99 per month as a stand-alone, and includes original series such as The Path, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Mindy Project. Hulu's live TV subscribers will also have the option to get the commercial-free version of the service for an additional $4 per month.


With an eye on personalization, the base Hulu Live TV service will also let subscribers create up to six individual profiles. Hulu said its new platform/interface will tie in the service’s live, recorded and VOD content, and make recommendations based on viewing habits, factoring in the time of day content is watched and which device is being used.


Among other features, Hulu’s Live TV beta plan will also let subs track their favorite pro and college teams and the service will auto-surface and record those games, subject to availability. The service also includes a “Kids Mode” component focused on children’s programming.


Hulu, which announced plans for the live TV service last June, will be competing against traditional MVPDs as well as a growing mix of virtual, OTT-powered MVPDs that include Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV and DirecTV Now.


Hulu’s OTT TV service will also support a mix of premium add-on features. An “enhanced” cloud DVR service, selling for $14.99 per month, will let subs upgrade to 200 hours of storage and give them the ability to record as many shows concurrently as they want and fast-forward through recorded ads. An Unlimited Screens option, also selling for $14.99 per month, gives subs an unlimited number of in-home streams, and up to three when the service is accessed outside the home. Subscribers also have the option to bundle the enhanced  Cloud DVR and unlimited screens options for $19.99 per month.


Hulu will also sell Showtime for $8.99 per month , and plans to add more premium network add-ons “soon.”


Out of the chute, Hulu’s Live TV beta offering will support several mobile and TV-connected platforms, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Apple TV boxes (fourth generation), Xbox One consoles, and is optimized for the Google Chromecast streaming adapter. Other platforms and devices, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV boxes and sticks and Samsung smart TVs will be added to the mix "soon," Hulu said.


Hulu is introducing the live TV beta with deals in place with several major programmers, including 21th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, CBS, Turner Networks, A+E Networks and, just today, announced a deal with Scripps Networks Interactive that brings in networks such as HGTV, Travel Channel and Food Network.


The service will also include live local feeds from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC or a subset of that grouping, depending on the market. Markets that will have access to live locals from CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox right away include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose.


Hulu noted that it will light up more live local feeds on a rolling basis over the next few months.


“Nearly a decade ago, Hulu forever redefined the way people watch TV. Today, as we add live sports, news and entertainment and introduce a more intuitive Hulu, we want to redefine the way people experience TV,” Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins, said in a statement. “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. It’s a natural extension of our business, and an exciting new chapter for Hulu.”