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Hulu takes on cable, confirms plan to offer live TV service

Slated for 2017, the new subscription service would stream network and cable TV shows live instead of a day later. It's yet another way cable-cutters can view live content.

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Hulu is going live.

CNET

Hulu will become a full-on cable competitor with plans it announced Wednesday to introduce a live TV service in 2017.

The service would offer subscribers the ability to watch both live and on-demand programs," Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said at the company's annual Upfront Presentation on Wednesday, according to The Wall Street Journal. Viewers will be able to catch "live sports, news and events...in real time without a traditional cable or satellite subscription," Hopkins added, according to the Journal.

The news confirms a report published by the Journal on Sunday.

More TV viewers are jumping ship from pricey cable TV subscriptions and joining online services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Companies, including Dish Network with its $20 Sling TV and Sony with its $30-$40 PlayStation Vue, are trying to take advantage of the trend by selling "skinny" TV packages that offer popular channels at more reasonable price tags.

"So far, similar skinny bundles haven't had nearly as much of an impact as the 'cord-cutting' hype would lead you to expect," Forrester analyst Jim Nail said. "However, the more companies out there touting this kind of alternative, the more likely consumers will begin to shift the way they think about their TV service and, eventually, make the move."

Hulu has been talking with different providers about adding their channels, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. Two providers close to inking deals are Walt Disney and 21st Century Fox, which are co-owners of Hulu.

No price has been revealed for the new live TV subscription, though a Hulu executive told the Journal that the $40-per-month estimated by one analyst was "in the ballpark." An online digital video recorder would be included, according to the Journal, and viewers would have to sit through ads.

Hopkins revealed few specifics about the service, saying broadly that it would offer viewers a "deeply personalized experience." But he promised Hulu would offer more details throughout the year.

Hulu was busy last year introducing such new features as an ad-free option and the ability to bundle Showtime's online-only service as part of your subscription. But the moves didn't help the company's user growth rate.

At its presentation, Hulu announced that its subscriber base grew more than 30 percent year-over-year and will hit 12 million subscribers in the U.S. this month. But that number is down from the 50 percent growth rate seen last year, according to The Wrap. As more companies such as Hulu and Showtime unveil online-only streaming plans, Hulu now faces increased competition beyond just the likes of Netflix and Amazon.