The online TV wars just got a lot hotter.
Hulu on Wednesday unveiled its long-awaited streaming app, Hulu with Live TV, which seeks to compete with the likes of SlingTV, DirecTV Now and YouTube TV.
The app, which starts at $40 per month, grants access to more than 50 channels and marks the latest step toward a future where consumers can view live cable and broadcast shows from their smartphones, tablets and other Internet-connected devices. The monthly price includes access to Hulu's existing $9-a-month service. Customers will also be able to add the premium channel Showtime for an extra $9 a month.
The reveal comes a year after Hulu first teased the app at its annual Upfront conference. At the time, it was unclear exactly what the service might look like. But many were eagerly awaiting the final product because Hulu is owned by some of the biggest media firms in the world: Disney-ABC, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner.
That means Hulu's paid TV bundle is one of the more comprehensive packages on the market. It includes ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, the nation's major broadcast networks, whereas until now CBS was only available to stream on YouTube TV. Unlike rivals such as SlingTV, Hulu's new app does not wall off kids' or sports content behind an additional add-on package. And for those who are hooked on back-catalog shows, Hulu has the additional advantage of a massive on-demand library.
But the new service does have its limitations. Depending on a viewer's location, live streams of local broadcast channels may not be available. And Hulu with Live TV does not carry channels owned by AMC, Discovery or Viacom. That's disappointing news for fans of "Into the Badlands" or "The Walking Dead," and it means no Animal Planet or Comedy Central, either. HBO is also unavailable on Hulu with Live TV; separately, HBO said Wednesday that it will be pulling its content from Amazon Prime Video when the deal between the two companies expires in 2018.
Still, at a time when ESPN, Comcast and even Verizon has flirted with launching a streaming TV service, Hulu's entry into the market shows that Americans have a massive appetite for online alternatives to traditional cable.
Hulu with Live TV currently works on iOS, Apple TV, Android, Xbox and Chromecast, though support for Amazon FireTV, Roku and regular Macs and PCs is "coming soon," according to Hulu.