Hulu Launches Live Streaming Service Beta at $39.99 a Month

Hulu said a beta version of its anticipated live streaming TV service is available to the public Wednesday with a monthly price tag of $39.99.

The service offers more than 50 networks including HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel from Scripps Networks Interactive, which signed a new affiliation agreement. In addition to being available live, programming from those networks will be available on demand.

Hulu made the announcement during its upfront presentation to advertisers during the NewFronts in New York Wednesday morning.

Related: Hulu Brings E-Commerce to Living Room TV Screens

“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,” said Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins. “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.”

With its live service, Hulu is joining a crowd of streaming skinny bundles being offered at prices that suggest a razor thin profit margin for distributors. Already in the market are YouTube TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Dish Network’s Sling and a bunch of smaller competitors.

The new Hulu service will come with 50 hours of recording storage, up to six individual profiles and two simultaneous streams per account, with options to upgrade to an enhanced cloud DVR for $14.99 a month extra and unlimited in-home screens for $14.99. Subscribers who get both the cloud DVR and unlimited screens pay $19.99.

The service is built around a new user interface designed to help viewers find stuff they want to watch.

“We have always believed that TV should fit your lifestyle, not the other way around,” said Ben Smith, Hulu’s senior VP and head of experience. “You shouldn’t have to think about whether something is live, recorded or on demand, or care about which device you’re using. TV is about connecting with the shows, movies and sports you love—and we want to make that really easy for you, no matter where you’re watching.”

The $39.99 per month base price for the live feed included Hulu’s existing streaming video-on-demand service with limited commercials. Hulu’s library has more than 3,500 TV and film titles.

A commercial free service costs an additional $4 per month.

The new streaming service will be available on internet connected living room and mobile devices. Initially, it will work with Xbox One, Apple TV (4th generation), iOS and Android mobile devices and Chromecast.

Other devices, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Sticks and Samsung Smart TVs, will be supported soon, the company said.

The Hulu interface will be personalized, providing recommendations based not only on the content a subscriber consumes but also based on the time of day and which device they’re using.

With sports programming, Hulu users can select their favorite games and Hulu will find those games and record those games live (if available). Viewers won’t have to know which channel the game is on to watch.

Hulu also has CBS’ Showtime available for $8.99 a month.

Hulu is a joint venture of 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Co., Time Warner and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. NBCUniversal belatedly signed onto the live streaming service this week, and with CBS having signed on earlier this year, all of the big four broadcast networks and many of their affiliates are available.

Most of the cable networks owned by those companies are also represented, including key channels such as ESPN and Fox News.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.