Hulu is reportedly planning to move beyond offering consumers on-demand replays of popular TV shows; early next year, the company's subscribers might be able to watch them live — if they're willing to pay more money. The Wall Street Journal is tonight reporting that Hulu is working on an internet TV product in the same vein as Dish's Sling TV and Sony's PlayStation Vue. It's currently being positioned to launch in early 2017.
The unannounced service would let customers watch live streams of channels including Fox, ABC, ESPN, FX, and the Disney Channel. It would also include DVR-like functionality to let users watch shows on their own time. The current Hulu experience is very similar to Netflix; you find a TV or movie show to watch, hit the play button, and it begins streaming.
But now Hulu — jointly owned by The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, and Comcast — is going to compete with cable providers just as Dish and Sony have attempted to do. That's a big deal because, as Recode notes, it means that Fox and Disney/ABC are becoming bigger believers in bringing their programming to something that isn't regular old cable.
Hulu's internet TV service is rumored to debut in early 2017
Comcast owns one third of Hulu, but cannot influence its strategy because of a stipulation that resulted from the company's takeover of NBCUniversal. Comcast can refuse to license its channels to Hulu's new subscription product, however, and the Journal claims that so far NBC's channels aren't part of the bundle. (NBC does participate in Sony's PlayStation Vue, which is also a cable replacement that starts at $29.99 per month.)
The Journal's report doesn't reveal how much Hulu's new service will cost, but offers an analyst estimate of around $40 monthly. That'd put it roughly on par with Sony's offering. But Hulu has a lot more name recognition than the relatively new PlayStation Vue — and even Sling TV for that matter. So such a move could definitely shake up the TV industry and would be a welcome option for cord cutters. The Verge has reached out to Hulu for comment. The company has generally enjoyed a cozy relationship with cable operators; Cablevision customers can now tune to Hulu directly from their cable box.