Hulu launched its live TV service in beta on Wednesday, officially entering a crowded market of livestreaming TV services, each of which is trying to cater to cable cord cutters.
Hulu Live TV was first announced back during CES, where I had a chance to take a peek at the new software well before it was ready for primetime. Hulu is taking a smarter approach to the market. Instead of providing a traditional list of shows that are on TV, it tries to recommend shows people will like based on what they've already told the service they enjoy, and past habits. It also adds a fresh and colorful user interface where people are otherwise used to drab interfaces that haven't changed in more than a decade.
Plenty of players are in this space, though. Dish's Sling TV got an early start, followed by Sony's PS Vue, AT&T's DirecTV Now and Google's YouTube TV. Each offers very different experiences and channel packages.
Let's just take an exploratory look at what Hulu Live TV offers now.
Hulu starts at $39.99 per month. That gets you more than 50 live channels, up to 50 hours of cloud DVR recording, the ability to watch on two devices at once and unlimited access to the Hulu library of on-demand content. A $43.99/month plan removes commercials. Hulu also offers an add-on for $14.99/month that lets you stream to an unlimited number of devices at home or three devices on the go. Another $14.99 per month will expand your Cloud DVR to allow you up to 200 hours of saved movies and TV shows. Those bundles can be combined and purchased for $19.99. Showtime is an additional $8.99 a month. All-in and without commercials, you're looking at $73 (with the combined bundle.)
All of this sounds and looks very promising. I've used all of Hulu Live TV's competitors and there are a lot of pain points that each service tries to address. Hulu seems to do a good job tackling selection of content, DVR functions and a clean interface.
Something worth watching out for is how well the service performs over time, though, and whether or not it drops out during evenings when millions of people are tuning in to watch TV. AT&T's DirecTV Now, for example, continued to crash weeks after the service launched. Take this away, though: Hulu looks good, is easy to use, and puts content front and center.
That's a great start.
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal, is a co-owner of Hulu.