Cord-cutting continues to sweep the nation with 22.2 million U.S. households ditching their cable or satellite TV provider. My beautiful mother was one of those 22.2 million, and she recently replaced her AT&T U-verse cable package with Hulu with Live TV.
Over the holidays, I spent the week using Hulu Live alongside my family and noticed a few things that may not be readily apparent to the consumer before making the switch.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to Hulu with Live TV.
First off, and this should be obvious, is that Hulu Live is significantly cheaper than cable. With the exception of Comcast’s Xfinity tv service, most packages start around $60/month and can go as high $100+. These prices may go down slightly if you’re bundling with internet, but they tend to come with silly fees for hardware or HD. Many of them also come with long-term contracts, which forces you to buy yourself out of the contract if you’re looking to change. Moreover, these companies like to offer promotional prices that continue to rise the longer you use the service.
Hulu with Live TV is $39.99/month, which includes the $7.99/month on-demand service, and that price is on a month-to-month basis with no extra fees. So, once you’ve made an investment in some streaming device — Hulu Live works on Apple TV 4, Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, some smart TVs, Apple and Android devices, as well as Xbox One and Xbox 360 — you should be spending a reasonable amount on your TV service. Plus, that comes with 50 hours of DVR storage.
To those who are overwhelmed by the hundreds of channels on cable TV, that price will seem much more tolerable given the amount of content available on Hulu with Live TV. The service comes with 40+ channels including the four major networks (CBS, Fox, ABC, NBC) as well as a handful of sports channels (ESPN, etc.) and entertainment channels like E!, Bravo, and Food Network.
In short, Hulu with Live TV gives you just about everything you’d want to watch and no more, which is a relief to those sick of flipping through hundreds of channels and paying for channels they never watch.
One of the worst things about live TV is commercials. Most commercial breaks last around 4 minutes and often try to sell you things that don’t interest you. One small perk to Hulu with Live TV is that commercial breaks are shorter than they tend to be on live TV. Most are two minutes with a count-down clock at the top so you know when your show is about to come back on.
As far as on-demand content goes, Hulu with Live TV offers the basic on-demand plan that most Hulu users are familiar with. But it also offers extra on-demand content, such as TBS on demand, which includes re-runs of sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory.
But perhaps most importantly, Hulu with Live TV has better customer service than your cable provider. So if you ever run into a problem, you should be able to reach someone at Hulu via instant message to get your problem solved without a drain on your emotional wellbeing.
Every rose has its thorn, and Hulu Live is no different. One of the biggest issues that I noticed was that you can’t skip through commercials, even if you’ve paused live TV for a few minutes and started up again. You also can’t skip commercials on recorded TV. So even though the commercials are shorter, they’re still there and you can’t skip past them.
The interface also takes some getting used to. Instead of a grid that shows what’s on now and what’s upcoming, Hulu with Live TV serves up the five most-watched channels. Users must click through to the Watch More menu to see everything that’s currently playing, and there’s no information on what’s coming on next for each channel.
And then there’s the matter of Net Neutrality. As an early Christmas present to Scrooges everywhere, the FCC voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules in early December. Without being alarmist, there’s a very real possibility that ISPs will milk every last dollar out of service providers like Netflix and Hulu, and that potential added cost might be passed on to users.
The last two cons are a bit nit-picky but worth being aware of. While the streaming quality of Hulu Live is fantastic, the service is more prone to glitches than cable TV. No one wants to miss a touchdown during the big game, and short freezes could easily tick someone off. This is usually subject to internet speeds and not necessarily Hulu’s fault, but it’s something.
Secondly, folks who love their HBO and Showtime will need to pay for those services separately as opposed to having them baked into their cable package. Hulu offers these services as add-ons, with Showtime costing $8.99/month, HBO costing $14.99/month, and Cinemax costing $9.99/month.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how great Hulu Live is. There is plenty of competition in the space — YouTube TV is going toe-to-toe in this space, and I’d expect more to jump on the bandwagon. Plus, the Hulu Live service is only in beta, so things should only get better from here.