After partners like CBS and NBC were confirmed to be part of Hulu's upcoming live-streaming TV service, Mashable recently got a glimpse of the early build for the service on both iOS and full-screen TV apps. Hulu has still kept details under wraps regarding specific price points and plans, although Hulu Chief Executive Mike Hopkins said last week that it will cost users "under $40" each month.
The addition of live TV is said to have changed Hulu's "entire user experience," by combining the company's existing on-demand content with the all-new live TV streams. The app guides users through a taste-test quiz about the type of TV they like to watch, using the information and accumulated data of what each user watches to offer recommendations on its home screen. If there are multiple users in a house, each person will get their own menu, recommendations, and everyone can watch their shows at once.
If the new Hulu has a philosophy, it's personal, personal, personal. From the home screen to the recommendations it serves up, the new Hulu is intended to be about you. That becomes clear the moment you launch the new app on your phone, which quizzes you on the kind of content you like — genres, networks and specific shows — before you even get to the home screen. Sorta like Foursquare, but for TV.
The "Lineup" greets users when they first dive into their personal profile, and it's said to be "a compilation of the content — live or on-demand — Hulu thinks is most important to you." Favorite shows will take top billing, while shows recorded in a cloud DVR (an expected add-on feature) will also be added to the Lineup.
The user interface then splits content into a horizontal list with icons at the top of the screen representing Movies, News and Networks. The Networks tab is where most of Hulu's live content will be housed, with users able to tap on any channel and tune into what's happening now on each station. Mobile notifications will be available to warn users when a game is starting with their favorite team, but the feature will only encompass sports at launch. Notifications for breaking news and warnings about expiring TV shows are being worked on as well.
One of Mashable's concerns about the new service is its attempt at seamlessly mixing Hulu's old content with its new live-streaming options. The site compared the move to when Apple decided to do something similar with both old, downloaded songs and the new streaming content in Apple Music, which confused many users.
The demo I got of Hulu's new UI was canned, so I didn't get a chance to navigate it myself. From the looks of it, Hulu has done a good job of mixing together live and on-demand content into a single interface, although it's questionable if they ever should have been mixed in the first place.
Similarly, when Apple mixed together on-demand music streaming with downloads in Apple Music, it stepped into a minefield. It eventually rolled back the UI to better separate the two things the app does. Will the same thing happen to Hulu?
Curiosity surrounding the new live TV service from Hulu has been building ever since it was rumored last May. As of now, Hulu's cord-cutting service includes partners CBS, Walt Disney, Time Warner, Fox, and NBC. When it launches sometime in the spring, the service will enter the market to competitors including Sling TV and DirecTV Now, but Hulu won't have to worry about competition from Apple's own live-streaming service since it has long been shelved after the company failed to make inroads with network programmers.