Hulu Live TV launches in beta: What you need to know

Nearly one year after Hulu revealed plans to sell a bundle of TV channels, it’s finally here.

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The Hulu Live TV bundle is now available to everyone, though Hulu is calling it a paid public beta. The service costs $40 per month for more than 50 channels, and it includes access to Hulu’s ad-supported on-demand service. Hulu is charging extra for certain features, however, such as more cloud DVR storage and ad-skipping.

Read on for all the details on the new Hulu bundle.

Hulu channels at a glance

Instead of offering a base package with add-ons, like Sling TV, or several bundle tiers, like DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue, Hulu’s channel lineup is one-size-fits-all, with a long list of channels from seven major TV networks. That list includes ESPN channels from The Walt Disney Company, regional sports from Fox and Comcast, the big three cable news networks, and prime-time content from the major broadcast networks. (A full channel list is at the bottom of this story.)

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Hulu will offer plenty of sports (and a dashboard for favorite teams).

 The notable omissions? AMC, Viacom, and Discovery networks. That means no The Walking Dead, no Comedy Central, and no Animal Planet.

If you’ve been paying attention to other streaming bundles, you know the drill for live local broadcasts: All four are available in a small number of markets—Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco—where the stations are all network-owned and operated. Some cities have a partial set of locals, Hulu is working on deals with affiliate stations to offer local coverage in more markets. You can plug in a zip code on Hulu’s sign-up page to see what’s available in your area.

DVR details

DVR is included in the $40-per-month plan, but with a catch: You can save only 50 hours of programming, and you can’t skip through ads. (Mandatory ads are also part of YouTube TV’s cloud DVR service.) Hulu hasn’t said whether recordings have a time limit, like PlayStation Vue (28 days) or YouTube TV (9 months).

For an extra $15 per month, Hulu is offering “Enhanced Cloud DVR,” with 200 hours of recording time and the ability to fast forward through commercials. The company also mentions being able to auto-record any favorite show or sports game with this feature.

On-demand content

Beyond DVR, Hulu’s channels will offer a smattering of on-demand video, as other streaming bundles do. But Hulu is also throwing in the full catalog from its own on-demand service, which includes full seasons of TV shows and films that might not be part of other bundles. That service normally costs $8 per month with ads, or $12 per month without them. To avoid the ads in Hulu’s Live TV service, you’ll need to pay the $4-per-month difference.

Streaming restrictions

The $40-per-month plan supports two streams simultaneously and up to six user profiles, including a Kids Mode that restricts the catalog and prevents searching. An extra $15 per month allows unlimited device streaming at home—presumably verified by IP address—and up to three simultaneous streams outside the home.

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Hulu’s menu for favorite TV shows combines on-demand and live sources.

 For subscribers who want full DVR features and fewer streaming limits, Hulu is offering the two add-ons for $20 per month total.

Premium channels

At the moment, Hulu is only offering an on-demand version of Showtime for $9 per month, which was already an option for Hulu’s on-demand service. The company says other premium add-ons will arrive soon, but it hasn’t given details.

Device support

At launch, the Hulu Live TV beta should work on Apple TV, Xbox One, Chromecast, iOS, and Android mobile devices. Hulu says it will soon add support for Roku, Amazon Fire TV (and Fire TV Stick), and Samsung smart TVs.

What’s with the beta tag?

Hulu hasn’t given an official explanation as to why it’s calling its launch “beta.” It could have to do with the limited device support, or it could be an attempt at deflecting criticism in case there are any launch hiccups. (See: DirecTV Now.)

In any case, there are no limits on who can sign up for the service. Hulu will happily take your money now, finished product or not.

But what’s it like to use?

Hulu says it’s placed significant emphasis on personalization, with an algorithm that tweaks its recommendations based on what each user watches. The interface also tries to focus on shows and sports games, rather than channels and programming lineups.

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