The biggest news from Hulu’s Upfront event came right at the top of the presentation: Hulu’s long-awaited Live TV service is now live. (The company is technically calling it a beta launch, just in case there are early problems.) CEO Mike Hopkins, speaking to a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden, confirmed some details that had already been reported: The service will cost $39.99, and will include all of Hulu’s traditional VOD content. It will also come equipped with a cloud-based DVR. It will feature the four major broadcast nets. (That was a close call: The company’s carriage deal with NBCUniversal was only announced this week, despite the fact that NBCU is a co-owner of the company.) Hopkins announced that Scripps’ roster of brands will be included as well. All told, the service will carry over 50 channels, including major sports, news, and kids’ brands. Notably absent are Viacom, AMC Networks, HBO, Starz, and Discovery Communications. And Hulu won’t offer local TV content from the four major networks in every market; the company say’s it’s still working on signing more affiliate deals. At the moment, local content deals are in place with ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS networks in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. Hulu announced that advertisers will be able to dynamically insert targeted ads into the service. For the service’s cloud DVR, advertisers will be able to update ads in real-time. (In other words, advertisers can make sure that viewers see fresh ads no matter when they get around to watching the content.) To start, the service will be available via Apple TV, Microsoft’s Xbox One, Google’s Chromecast, and iOS and Android devices. Support for Samsung Smart TVs, as well as Amazon and Roku devices, will follow soon.
In other news, Hulu announced that it has renewed The Handmaid’s Tale, its critically lauded adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel. Other programming news included the casting of Alec Baldwin in The Looming Tower, the company’s upcoming drama series about the rise of Al-Qaeda and the run-up to the 9/11 attacks. The company also took the opportunity to announce some new ad products and partnerships. Hulu said that Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings product will be available to advertisers across connected-TV devices starting this fall. And the company announced a new interactive ad format, dubbed “T-commerce,” that will let Hulu subs purchase movie tickets directly through connected TV screens. Hulu says the on-screen purchasing feature will expand to other categories, such as restaurants and retail, in 2018. The T-commerce product is launching in partnership with BrightLine.