Hulu adds live TV for $ 40 a month, but cloud DVR has one catch: CNET

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So you've cut the cable for cable TV but still want live TV. You may have tried the alternatives: Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now and YouTube TV. Something is still missing.

Hulu hopes that "something" is its own large library of on-demand TV shows and films. Because that's exactly what it packs along with more than 50 live TV channels in the new Hulu with live TV plan that starts today.

Giving Hulu $ 40 a month gives you full access to traditional Hulu – which currently costs $ 8 a month – as well as live TV from local ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC channels in select cities, plus one Solid list of cable channels including ESPN, CNN, TNT, Bravo, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Lifetime, Disney Channel and more (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET and Showtime.) You also get 50 hours of cloud DVR storage and everything -new interface.

Fascinated? Here's what you need to know.

Hulus DVR: Cloudy with an opportunity for advertising

I'll cover the other features in a moment, but first you should know the biggest limitation of Hulu. With the cloud DVR, which is included in the basic package for $ 40, you cannot fast forward commercials. You'll have to pay an additional $ 15 per month for Hulu's "Enhanced Cloud DVR" add-on.

With a typical physical digital video recorder from your cable company or TiVo, you can record programs for later viewing, set up season passes to record all upcoming episodes of a program, and fast-forward and rewind recorded programs. This type of DVR functionality is also offered by the other live TV streaming services (with the exception of DirecTV Now) with some restrictions, with the exception that your programs are stored remotely in the cloud.

What restrictions do you ask? PlayStation Vue's cloud DVR offers unlimited storage and skips advertising on any channel. However, the shipments expire after 28 days. YouTube TV's cloud DVR has an unlimited storage capacity of nine months. However, as soon as a program is available via video-on-demand, it replaces the DVR version. This usually means that you cannot skip advertising. Sling TV's cloud DVR has 50 or 100 hours of storage, doesn't expire, and you can skip commercials, but it's only available on certain devices. It costs an additional $ 5 a month, and many channels (especially Disney / ESPN and Fox channels) cannot be recorded at all.

Hulu's basic cloud DVR has 50 hours of storage and shows don't automatically expire or be replaced by on-demand broadcasts, but the privilege of being quickly relayed through advertising increases the price significantly.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

Pricing: Which Hulu is for you?

It depends on how much you enjoy advertising.

Competitors Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue offer upgrade plans with more channels, but Hulu takes a different approach. The add-ons for the live TV plan mostly offer additional functions – up to $ 73 per month for the entire month with showtime, unlimited streams and minimal advertisements.

Here's how to resolve them, including the two original plans that are still available.

Hulu plans and prices

To plan

Monthly charges

What you get

Limited advertising

$ 8

Hulu's on-demand library of commercials

No advertising

$ 12

Hulus on-demand library, ad-free

Hulu with live TV

$ 40

50 live channels, 50-hour cloud DVR without commercials, 2 simultaneous streams, Hulus on-demand library with commercials

Add-ons for live TV

No VOD advertising

plus $ 4

Ad-free option for the on-demand library (live TV has advertising)

Improved cloud DVR

plus $ 15

Skipping commercials on recorded shows, 200 hours of storage

Unlimited screens

plus $ 15

Unlimited simultaneous streams at home, 3 outside the home

Enhanced Cloud DVR + Unlimited Screens

plus $ 20

Combine the two add-ons and save $ 10 a month

show time

plus $ 9

Live and on-demand access to Showtime

The $ 40 base plan can be expanded to remove advertisements from the on-demand shows. This costs the same $ 4 as standard Hulu. I love that option. I have been subscribed to Hulu without ads since its launch, and in my book it is a breeze to drop those on-demand ads for $ 4.

The other add-ons are relatively expensive, although they can be combined for a $ 10 discount. The improved DVR offers more storage space and the ability to fast forward through displays. Unlimited screens mean that a family can watch any number of Hulu streams at home at the same time, provided your network can handle it and you have enough devices. The default plan is limited to two simultaneous streams.

Showtime is currently the only add-on channel, although Hulu says more premium channels will be coming soon.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

Nationwide launch, except for local channels

Unlike YouTube TV, which is currently only available in five cities, anyone in the US can subscribe to Hulu with Live TV. The catch? You only get access to all four local live channels – ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – if you live in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago or Philadelphia.

In other markets, Hulu has some of these channels and not others, so you may get two or three channels to start with. Hulu says it is in the works to add more local channels soon. DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue, which also offer local channels, have similar settings.

50 channels, but no AMC, Viacom or Discovery

In addition to local channels, every Hulu Live TV subscriber receives cable networks, including Disney (ESPN, The Disney Channel), Fox (FX, Fox News), Turner (CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network), Scripps (HGTV, Food Network). NBC (Bravo, USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC). The selection of sports in Hulu is also decent with CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports and selected regional sports networks.

Hulu vs. YouTube TV vs. Sling TV vs. DirecTV Now vs. PlayStation Vue: Channel Lineups Compared

Missing networks are AMC (AMC, IFC, BBC America), Viacom (Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV) and Discovery (Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet). Many of them are available from both Hulu's streaming competitors and Cable.

Overall, Hulu has a solid program that surpasses YouTube TV and Sling TV, is roughly equivalent to DirecTV Now (CBS is missing, but has AMC and Viacom), and PlayStation Vue is a little off the mark.

Device support: Relatively weak at startup

In order to use Hulu with Live TV, you need a compatible device that does not contain Roku, Amazon Fire or, surprisingly, a PC or Mac when it starts up. Here's something is supports today and how it compares to the other guys.

Live TV streaming service devices compared

platform

Hulu with live TV

YouTube TV

Sling TV

PlayStation Vue

DirecTV now

Android

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

iOS

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Windows

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mac

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Chromecast

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Android only

Android TV

Cast only

Cast only

Yes

Yes

No

PS3 / PS4

No

No

No

Yes

No

Xbox One

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

Roku

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Apple TV

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fire TV

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

fire tablets

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Channel master DVR

No

No

Yes

No

No

In his honor, Hulu says that "soon" it will be about adding support for other devices including computers, Roku, Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

Show-centered user interface with family profiles

Every Hulu subscriber will eventually have access to what the company calls "The New Hulu Experience". For Hulu subscribers who don't prefer live TV, the new user interface is currently available on Xbox One, Apple TV and Android.

It is a complete redesign of the user interface with a new look and new features, including profiles for up to six family members (previously only available on Hulu.com and selected devices), a kid's mode that features age-appropriate programs, notifications and an improved search is limited and browse, and more. I got a tour in January and got away impressed.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

For live subscribers, the interface combines live TV and on-demand in a clever way. As with Netflix, PlayStation Vue, and indeed Hulu itself, the focus is on individual shows instead of channels. When you set up your profile, you'll be asked to choose your preferred genres and shows. After that, you can mark individual shows as something you want to see again.

This user preference information is then used to recommend new shows (either live or on-demand now) that are presented in a personalized "lineup" along with the shows you have seen previously, in the style of the next episode, for easy bingeing.

Similar to YouTube TV, you can also select your favorite teams and the system will notify you when games go online and automatically record them as they become available. This is ideal for games broadcast on local programs (ABC, Fox, etc.) or on national sports networks such as ESPN. However, if your team works in a regional sports network that is not offered by Hulu, you are out of luck.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

Early judgment: worth a free trial

Like its competitors, Hulu offers a free trial of its live TV schedule. And unlike cables, there are no additional fees or contracts for devices, and you can cancel at any time. So if you are interested, give it a try.

The biggest problem, of course, is the price. Aside from PlayStation Vue, which costs the same for its basic channel package, the entry price of $ 40 is more than any other competitor. If you've already subscribed to Hulu, this is a cheaper deal because it saves you that $ 8 or $ 12 monthly fee and cuts the price of Just Live to $ 32 a month – less than any other provider, aside from Sling TV. But this surcharge for the fully featured, skippable cloud DVR is a killer, and brings the total price over what many cable cutters may be willing to pay.

I am expecting more information and practical impressions soon. If you want to try it out in the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments.