It always felt like if Hulu ever launched a live-TV service, it might have a real shot at killing cable. After all, Hulu’s owners—21st Century Fox, Disney, Comcast, and Time Warner—own and operate every channel that matters. Now, months after Hulu first showed off its live service, and many more months since it started hinting one was coming, Hulu with Live TV is finally, well, live. The service costs $40 per month, and includes 50-plus live channels along with everything else Hulu has always offered.
This may seem like just another live TV service from just another internet company, but Hulu’s launch is bigger than that.
It’s the streaming-plus-live combination that Hulu seems to be hoping will set it apart from its competitors, the list of which is approximately the length of Infinite Jest. There’s PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV and Sling and DirecTV Now, all the services from individual channels, you could probably count Netflix and HBO, and the good ol’ cable you know and hate. Hulu’s selection of content is as wide as anybody’s: It signed up the four major broadcast networks, has sports from ESPN and others, offers lots of news and cartoons, and has the all-important HGTV. That, alongside everything Hulu’s always shown, from its rapidly improving set of originals—raise your hand if you’re obsessed with The Handmaid’s Tale—to its solid library of B-list movies and day-after TV shows. It’s almost certainly the most raw hours of content you’ll find on any similar service.
In Hulu’s interface, everything is co-mingled into one huge library. It doesn’t differentiate whether you’re watching shows live or on demand, because it doesn’t really matter. As you watch, Hulu starts to learn what you like, moving Flip or Flop up on the home screen while kicking Guy Fieri to the digital curb. If you’re a sports fan, you can set the service to automatically record all your team’s games. Each account can have up to six profiles, and everything stays in sync across devices.
For the base $40 price, you get 50 hours of recording storage and can watch in two places at once. You can get more storage and more streams for $15 apiece or $20 together. Right now, the new features are only available on Apple TV, Xbox One, iOS, Android, and Chromecast. (Sorry, Roku and Fire TV owners.) But one of Hulu’s best traits has always been its ability to quickly leap onto every available platform, so don’t expect the exclusivity to last long.
This may seem like just another live TV service from just another internet company, but Hulu’s launch is bigger than that. Its giant conglomerate co-owners seem to see the service as their internet-y testing ground, a place to evaluate new ideas away from the profit-hungry eyes of shareholders. Whatever works about Hulu’s live service, you’ll see repeated by its larger parents soon. So while this might not be the moment you cancel cable, it’s a step in a decidedly cord-cutting direction.