People have been talking about Hulu's live TV service for months. How many channels will it offer? What will the deal be with local content? How much will it cost? All those questions have been answered with the beta launch of live TV on Hulu.
The service includes about 50 live channels plus the Hulu on-demand content you're already used to for $39.99 per month. As with the the traditional Hulu service, you can pay a bit more for no commercials on content in the on-demand library. It also comes with a cloud-based DVR, which allows you to record 50-hours of live TV (you can add extra storage for an additional $15 per month).
All that sounds good, but as with other services, it's not perfect. Live service isn't available on all devices yet. For instance, it will work on Xbox One, Apple TV (4th gen), Chromecast, and mobile devices, but Amazon Fire devices and Roku do not yet have the available support.
Another negative is that you can only watch two screens at a time, whereas services like PS Vue and YouTube TV let you watch on five or six simultaneously. If you're not sharing your service, that might work, but for families that are all watching something different at the same time it could prove to be limiting.
Channel wise, Hulu does offer a lot of the usual suspects you find with other services. A&E, Food Network, Freeform, FX, Syfy, and History are all present and accounted for. And you get ESPN and TNT, which means you can sign up now during the NBA Playoffs and get the coverage you need. However, notably absent are Viacom channels, Discovery, and AMC (sorry Walking Dead fans).
Perhaps the biggest let down is that while all the four major local channels are represented, a good portion of people are only going to receive them on-demand. You can find out before signing up, but the reality is that right now only a very small selection of the country is receiving live stream local access from Hulu's live service.
So if you were looking for Hulu to be the service that finally eliminates the need for the antenna… well, you'll have to keep looking.
The inability to add live services around the country is a problem that all streaming services continue to face. It has kept YouTube TV from expanding and it kept Apple out of the skinny bundle business.
So if Hulu's not the answer for live locals, how can a cord cutter watch the big four networks without cable?
You have a couple options, depending on what you're comfortable with. The first, as alluded to before, if to use an antenna. Live locals are available in much of the US if you get your hands on the right one for your location.
Of course, some people don't want to deal with setting up an antenna and hitting the input button to toggle between streaming and over-the-air. In that case, you might consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN serves two purposes. First (and most importantly), it protects your personal information, essentially making you anonymous online. Secondly, it allows you to change your location. In other words, you could set your location as NYC and access streaming content that isn't available in your area. In this particular example, you could theoretically gain access to live local channels that are available to stream in New York.
However, it's worth noting that this could violate a streaming services terms of service, whether you're legally paying for the service or not.
So, while Hulu offers the newest live streaming cable TV alternative, we're still waiting for the service that successfully ties in live locals.