Cable Nets May Sell $20 Streaming Bundle; Hulu To Charge $40 For Live TV

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The TV rumor mill is whirring with news that some of the biggest cable networks may follow Hulu’s lead, joining together to sell streaming content directly to viewers. And speaking of Hulu, we’re finally getting some vague idea of what its entry into live-TV streaming will cost.

First up is Hulu, which itself isn’t new — at this point, it’s one of the venerable old options for watching TV online — but which is still planning to launch a new live-TV service any day now.

Hulu announced the plan late in 2016 when it confirmed the Fox and Disney networks (including ESPN) were all on board. That itself was no surprise, since Fox and Disney each own a 30% stake in Hulu. (Comcast’s NBCUniversal also owns 30%, and the last 10% belongs to Time Warner.)

What Hulu did not announce, however, was the target price point or actual launch date for the new service, which will be an over-the-top (no-cable) bundle in the vein of Sling (Dish), DirecTV Now (AT&T), YouTube TV (Google), and PlayStation Vue (Sony).

TechCrunch now reports that Hulu’s service is going to run $39.99 a month, according to sources in the know, just clearing the CEO’s prior promise that Hulu’s offering would be less than $40.

That $40 base price point likely doesn’t include access to the planned cloud DVR service though; TechCrunch says its sources claim that will be an extra fee of less than $20 per month. Access to Hulu’s original programming and premium channels are also not included in the base price, so choosing to subscribe to everything Hulu will have to offer could end up running as much as some cable packages do.

While TechCrunch’s sources dished on pricing, however, they didn’t share any details about a possible launch date. TechCrunch notes that Hulu is sticking to the “spring” time frame for going live, which, technically speaking, gives them until the solstice kicks off summer on June 21.

Hulu was born out of the idea that three major broadcasters — NBC, ABC, FOX — could put aside their differences and sell an affordable streaming product using their combined content libraries. Now Bloomberg reports that a bunch of cable content kingpins are considering a similar model.

The programmers said to be in talks include Viacom (Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, etc), Discovery (Discovery, Animal Planet, TLC, etc), and AMC (AMC, BBC America, IFC, etc). Sources in the know tell Bloomberg that the media companies are considering joining up to sell a streaming package.

Finding content from those three providers specifically is more than a little scattershot right now. AMC is available on Vue, Sling, and DirectTV Now. Discovery is available on Vue and DirecTV now, but not Sling. And Viacom is available on Sling and DirecTV now, but not Vue. YouTube’s new TV service, meanwhile, does not carry any of them as yet.

The plan, however, seems not to go it alone but instead to partner with existing pay-TV providers, who can then offer the streaming bundle for around $20.

If this service launches, the content providers will be betting that consumers who aren’t interested in sports will be willing to buy in for about half the price of every other streaming bundle. Somewhere around four to six providers are considering the proposal, according to Bloomberg.