Hulu with Live TV tops a million subscribers

Hulu’s live TV streaming service has hit a milestone number of more than 1 million subscribers. That’s up from the estimated 450,000 CNBC reported at the beginning of the year, and the 800,000 official number Hulu announced in May. But although the live TV audience may be growing, it’s still a small fraction of Hulu’s total subscriber base of 20 million-plus, which includes those who pay for the service’s on-demand programming.

The new figures were first reported by USA Today, in a report detailing Hulu’s Emmy campaign. (The streamer took home four Emmys this year – far behind market leaders, HBO and Netflix, which tied for the top spot with 23 wins apiece, across both last night’s ceremony and the earlier Creative Arts awards.)

Hulu also confirmed the number’s accuracy with us.

This one million subscriber milestone is notable given the fierce competition among live TV streaming services these days.

Dish’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now still lead the space, thanks to Sling’s early mover advantage, and DirecTV Now’s distribution through AT&T’s wireless business. The former had 2.3 million subscribers as of June, per Reuters, while AT&T said DirecTV Now had 1.8 million, as of its last earnings report in July.

Meanwhile, newcomer YouTube TV hit 800,000 around May – a number also cited by The Information in July, when reporting the difficulties in making profits in the live TV space. At the time, Hulu with Live TV was said to be “nearing a million.”

Sony’s PlayStation Vue is trailing the lot with somewhere over half a million – no doubt stymied by its branding, which seems to imply its only for PlayStation owners.

And these are just the major players, too.

There are also a growing number of niche streaming services, ranging from the sports-focused fuboTV to the valued priced cable-like package offered by Philo, which was recently trying to increase distribution through a bundle deal with Pandora. (Hulu has a similar deal with Spotify).

Plus, AT&T quickly capitalized on the Time Warner merger with a second, low-cost service called WatchTV. 

While there are now several skinny bundle options clogging the market, they’re no longer looking like the value they once were. Many – like Sling, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, and Vue – have recently raised their prices, which feels like a flashback to the cable TV era.

And if you factor in their extras – like expanded storage on “cloud DVRs” (a feature that costs very little to providers, compared with the price for the consumer), extra streams, or premium add-ons – they’re actually more in line with a cable TV bill than ever before.

It remains to be seen if consumers will opt out of live TV streaming, as a result, at some point further down the road. For now, however, the services are growing as more people cut the cord with traditional TV.