Hulu drops to just $5.99 per month after Netflix’s price hikes

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Hulu just announced that it will lower the price of its base, ad-supported subscription plan to $5.99 per month — down from the current $7.99 — beginning on February 26th. Hulu has offered its service at $5.99 previously on a promotional basis, and it clearly makes enough of a difference at pulling in subscribers to justify a price drop for the standard rate. In case you were concerned, customers will not see an increase in ad volume because of the reduced pricing. The $11.99-per-month “no commercials” plan will stay at its current price, as will the $12.99 Hulu/Spotify combo subscription, which Spotify handles billing for.

The price drop comes only days after rival Netflix announced increased subscription fees across all of its plans. The most popular plan (with HD streaming) is now $13 per month. Netflix’s content is, of course, ad-free, but Hulu is now creating enough of a cost divide that consumers might find its commercials easier to put up with. Hulu revealed earlier this month that it ended 2018 with over 25 million subscribers. That’s less than half of Netflix’s 58 million US-based customers, but it represents an impressive 48 percent increase in subscribers compared to where its subscriber count stood at the end of 2017.

However, Hulu does have one price hike of its own: the company is increasing the cost of its Hulu with Live TV service, which will jump to $44.99 instead of the current $39.99. As a result, the gulf between the standard service and Hulu’s internet TV offering is growing wider and a dollar shy of $40. The justification for the uptick in price is an increased channel selection — Hulu reached an agreement with Discovery, Inc. in September — and improvements to reliability and usability of the live TV experience. But this is also just the hard reality of these streaming TV services: they face the same hurdles as cable providers in reaching deals with networks and broadcast affiliates, and the major ones are all money losers. It’s inevitable that prices will continue to climb. You've also got to factor in that Hulu with Live TV includes the full on-demand product, which is relatively unique as these services go.

In an attempt to balance out the higher subscription charge, Hulu is lowering its fees for the live TV service’s optional add-ons: both the enhanced DVR and expanded multiscreen viewing packages are dropping to $9.99 from $14.99. The DVR option gives customers more storage (200 hours versus 50 hours for standard live TV subscribers) and allows them to fast-forward through commercials in DVR’d content.

The big unknown is how these prices might change once Disney assumes majority ownership of Hulu. Since that deal hasn’t yet been fully approved, Hulu has so far been unwilling to speculate on what’s to come. Disney executives have said they envision Hulu as an important piece of the company's streaming strategy: the service is more adult-oriented than Disney+ will be, and it exclusively offers many past TV hits that aren’t available on other platforms like Netflix (such as 30 Rock, Futurama, Lost, Seinfeld, and South Park). The company has been happy to spend heavily on licensed content, particularly with ‘90s shows. Netflix struck back against Hulu’s strategy late last year by spending $100 million to keep Friends on its platform.

In addition to the Disney uncertainties, Comcast has also indicated that it doesn’t intend to quickly sell off its 30 percent stake in Hulu. AT&T’s WarnerMedia owns the remaining 10 percent cut. So while Disney will have control once the Fox deal closes, there will be other voices at the table for now.

The new Hulu and Hulu with Live TV rates go into effect on February 26th for new subscribers. Existing customers will be switched over in their next billing cycle after that date.

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Comments

Hulu’s really been stepping it up lately.

My wife and I love the $11.99 No Commercials plan.

My only worry is that the Disney takeover will push away NBC and FOX from putting their shows on there and move them over to their own services.

Comcast will still own a 30% stake in Hulu, so I don’t see NBC content going away anytime soon if Comcast isn’t in any rush to sell that stake.

Except Comcast (NBC) has announced they are launching their own paid NBC Universal Streaming service. Their content will start getting pulled (or not offer reasonable renewal terms) from Hulu much like Disney has been pulling the Marvel content from Netflix.

Agreed! My breau and I dropped Netflix after The Big Purge of Licenses took away Futurama, American Dad, 30Rock, etc. – but especially It’s Always Sunny (that was the dealbreaker for the breau). And we haven’t looked back since. Once or twice we’ve joined back up with Netflix for their undeniably useful offline viewing option, but always canceled it again after we were done needing it. Now that we’re back on T-Mobile, we get Netflix for free so of course we signed up but honestly, we haven’t used it except for the offline viewing option for plane trips and the like. I think Netflix wildly overestimates the appeal of their original shows – I’ll take the whole series all at once, thank you very much. And then Hulu even has some shows they upload new episodes of as they come out so we might have to wait for The Orville, but at least we’re not waiting an entire year after a season ends (if you’re lucky) like for TV licensed on Netflix (what little they have left). Now, I do enjoy a few original series on Netflix (The Crown was surprisingly engrossing) but for something like Stranger Things, I’m waiting to even start it until there’s at least three seasons – a rule I came up with after being burned by the first season of Sherlock, not realizing until after I was hooked that it was only three (very long) episodes before a soul-crushing wait.

But to your point about Fox and NBC, I gotta say I’m already worried regardless of Disney’s buy-in, simply because they’re both already considering moving their content to their own services sooner rather than later and forced scarcity is the only thing that’s gonna motivate people to pay for subscriptions to yet another streaming service. And before you know it, you’ve essentially got cable all over again – ridiculously expensive but with the added hassle of having to switch between apps to watch anything. Just look at CBS All Access. We love Star Trek and yet if I wanna watch Discovery, I’ve gotta sign up for their service just for that one show. Granted, all the other Star Trek shows are on Hulu, which surprised me because CBS’ logo is stamped on every episode, you’d think they’d wanna keep it all for themselves to use as padding for their service but maybe it’s better as bait to come to them for the new show once you’ve rewatched Deep Space Nine for the umpteenth time. Or maybe it’s just Hulu’s license has yet to expire. At any rate, I’m not optimistic for the future of streaming with all the players who wanna jump in and make that money.

Disney is getting the majority position in Hulu because it is acquiring Fox, so you wouldn’t have to worry about Fox pulling their content since that will become Disney content.

Disney is not buying the Fox Broadcasting Company, only the 20th Century Fox studios, some of the cable channels, and the 30% of Hulu Fox owned.

20th Century Fox is the division that owns the majority of content rights within Fox. Disney might not be getting the broadcast station, but they are getting all the content that is internally licensed to the broadcast station via 20th Century and other Fox studios.

The Disney takeover is possible because they bought Fox. No worries about the Fox shows disappearing. Comcast would be insane to pull out of the only sure bet for them in streaming, but they might try to get Disney to buy them out.

Bought Hulu on a whim for the $0.99/month Black Friday deal. It’s turned out to be a great choice as my son discovered Mythbusters and has been bingeing his way through the seasons they have.

I’m really impressed with Hulu too and also bought it on a whim. Netflix puts out much better original content (in general), but overall, Hulu has so many more shows I like to watch regularly while Neflix has almost none.

I wish they would realize that families need more than 1 stream at a time and create an add-on for that or just update their restrictions.

What plan has only 1 stream at a time?

Does the multi-stream add on only work with live Hulu? I’ve thought about getting it for the no commercial non live plan but at 15 bucks a month and only needing one more stream it made more sense to just sign up for another account. But now that it’s 10 bucks a month it could potentially be worth it.

Never mind, after looking I see you have to switch to the live plan to access it. Yeah that’s BS Hulu.

I agree, we have the Hulu + Live TV plan and we get 1 Hulu stream and/or(?) 2 Live TV streams. This might be alright except that it never works right and if anyone is using either service it says we are maxed out.

Still waiting on that offline playback feature they promised last year was coming.

You and I both.

Same here

I did the limited commercial deal on Black Friday. $1/month is worth it even if I have to sit through 1-2 commercials during a South Park episode. The one device streaming has caught up with me from time-to-time but then I just tell the freeloaders to get off my account (or change the password, again, until my wife caves and shares it with them).

I’m surprised Hulu has yet to expand internationally, especially with how they’ve invested in original programming in the past years. I guess Disney/Fox/NBC make more money licensing their shows piecemeal than they would operating the service worldwide.

Disney said that they plan on expanding Hulu internationally once the Fox merger closes.

That’s good to hear. Currently, Netflix and HBO have very little competition worldwide. And a bunch of shows recently moved over to Hulu from Netflix making it impossible to watch it without buying in my country.

I did the Black Friday deal as well. It is worth the $1 per month, not much more. Makes me remember how painful video ads are, especially playing two minutes of them between every 5 minutes of content

In my experience, I only see ads on movies before and after the movie, not during. Although I do agree with you when it comes to watching shows.

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