There are more choices than ever for folks who like to watch TV but hate to pay that big cable bill every month. The latest offering for cord cutters comes from Hulu, which just launched its long-promised live TV service.
For $40 a month, you get access to more than 50 live channels plus Hulu’s extensive library of movies and TV shows. The offering is akin to conventional cable, but the bundle is “skinny,” you don’t have to sign a contract, and it can be streamed on a variety of devices.
Unlike rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime, Hulu Live offers a combination of content that, as the name implies, includes live channels, not just archived content. Subscribers can view programming from the four major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, with local live broadcast affiliate programming available in many markets. There’s also access to 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, Turner Networks, A+E Networks and Scripps Networks Interactive. HBO doesn’t appear to be an option, but Showtime is available for an additional $9 a month.
Sports is generally an area where streaming services fall down, but Hulu Live does fairly well on that score offering CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports and TNT, as well as regional sports networks available in many markets.
One of the features I like about conventional cable and satellite TV packages is the option to use a DVR. Without it, you feel like you’re back in the broadcast TV days and have to run home to catch a favorite program.
Hulu Live’s “enhanced cloud DVR” allows you to record multiple programs at the same time and store up to 200 hours of programming in its cloud. And if you hate commercials — and who doesn’t — you’ll be able to fast forward through them. However, the DVR service is pricey: $14.99 a month.
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If you choose that option, you’ll be paying about $60 a month, which is in the same price range as a low-end conventional pay TV package.
There’s another downside as well. Hulu says the service is in beta at the moment. It’s unclear what that actually means, but I suspect that Hulu Live, like other new streaming services, will have some technical glitches at first. So calling it “beta” kind of covers the corporate butt.
Also, two of the most popular streaming devices – the Roku box, and the Samsung Smart TV – are not supported. Hulu says that will change “soon,” but for now, that’s a major problem for many consumers. , Hulu Live is currently supported on Apple TV (4th Gen.), Xbox One, iOS and Android mobile devices and Chromecast.
I think Hulu Live will be a good option for cord cutters, but I’d advise waiting a bit. Let’s see how well the service actually performs and how long it takes to chase out the inevitable bugs.
Finally, it’s becoming clear that the astute cord cutter can easily put together a great home entertainment package. Major choices include, Sling TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, along with Hulu Live, and there are other, less prominent services out there as well. However, it’s also becoming clear that putting together your own bundle can quickly get as expensive as the conventional pay TV package you want to leave behind.
And don’t forget, a typical pay TV package often includes a break on Internet service when you bundle it with television and sometimes landline service. You won’t get that once you’ve cut the cord, and some ISPs have imposed data caps.
Cord cutting is increasingly attractive, but the freedom to build your own bundle means you need to shop carefully.