As Hulu Live Is Introduced, a Look at TV Streaming Services
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- May 4th, 2017
The competition to give cord-cutters a less expensive replacement for cable that satisfies live television needs increased on Wednesday as Hulu entered the crowded field.
Hulu, the streaming video company, announced that Hulu Live would join products like DirecTV Now, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV in trying to appeal to people who want live television but do not want to pay more than $100 a month for large cable bundles. The services offer smaller bundles of channels and allow viewers to watch live television outside the home on mobile devices. Because the video is delivered over the internet, consumers do not need to buy bulky hardware.
But choosing a service can be overwhelming. Each lacks channels or features that some viewers consider essential.
Here are questions to ask when considering the services:
How many screens do I need?
If you live alone, this may not be a concern. But for families with more than one child, or for apartment dwellers with roommates, being able to watch on only two screens at once may not cut it.
Which tier do I need?
Several of the services offer packages with different channel lineups and prices. If a specific channel is a must, make sure the package you are considering includes it.
What else would I need to buy?
You may be able to patch gaps by buying stand-alone services like CBS and HBO. To enjoy the services on bigger screens, you will need a device like an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick or Google Chromecast.
Can I watch my favorite sports teams?
All of the services offer the basics for sports fans, including ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2. But the availability of regional sports networks, or the channels that frequently show Major League Baseball, N.B.A. and N.H.L. games, varies by market. Check the service’s website to see what is included. You will also need to check on the availability of channels that occasionally feature live sports, like TNT, NFL Network, NBA TV, Big Ten Network and SEC Network.
Now, to the details of each service.
Subscribers would gain access to its streaming library, which otherwise costs $7.99 a month.
Price: $39.99 (barely making good on the chief executive’s promise that it would be under $40).
Channels: More than 50, varying by area.
DVR: 50 hours of storage space included; can expand to 200 hours of storage for $14.99.
HBO/Showtime: Showtime can be added for $9.
How many screens? Two, but more can be added for $14.99. (Extra DVR storage and unlimited screens can be bought together for $20.)
What is it missing? Animal Planet, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, HBO, NFL Network, Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1.
Users of AT&T for wireless phone service have an incentive to choose DirecTV Now: Any video streaming on the app does not count toward monthly data limits. Since streaming quickly chews through data, the perk could help save on mobile bills or enable more on-the-go viewing.
Price: $35 to $70.
Channels: 60 to 120.
HBO/Showtime: HBO is $5, or free for a year with the more expensive packages.
How many screens? Two.
What is it missing? CBS, CW, NFL Network, Showtime. Some markets will not have local networks.
This is as close as you will get to à la carte programming. You can start for as little as $20 and add chunks of channels in categories like sports, news, comedy and kids for $5 each.
Price: Starts at $20; can add groups of other channels.
Channels: Starts at 30, with dozens more available as add-ons.
DVR: Cloud DVR.
Showtime/HBO: HBO can be added for $15, Showtime for $10.
How many screens? One for the cheapest option, three for the next tier.
What is it missing? Animal Planet, CBS, Discovery Channel, Fox News, MTV, USA, VH1.
It is not just for Sony’s video game console. The service is supported on the same devices used to stream its competitors.
Price: $39.99 to $74.99.
Channels: 45 to 95.
DVR: Cloud DVR.
Showtime/HBO: HBO can be added for $15, Showtime for $10.99.
How many screens? Five.
What is it missing? A&E, Comedy Central, History, Lifetime, MTV, VH1.
A major caveat to this item: The service is initially available only in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area. Google says other cities will be added soon.
DVR: Cloud DVR.
HBO/Showtime: Showtime can be added for $11.
How many screens? Three.
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