Disney rolls out price increase for Hulu with Live TV

Hulu with Live TV. (Photo: Handout)

After taking control of Hulu earlier this year, Disney became a full-fledged pay television company, offering more than 60 cable and broadcast networks through a beefed-up version of Hulu with Live TV.

Now Disney is mimicking cable providers by raising the subscription price of Hulu with Live TV, forcing subscribers to pay an extra $10 a month while offering basically the same amount of programming as before.

On Friday, the company said it believes asking customers to pay $55 a month for a mixture of live sports, news and entertainment streams better reflected the value of the programming offered on the platform.

“Price changes are never easy to stomach,” the blog post said. “We know that many people don’t watch live television year-round, so we’ve made it easy for Hulu subscribers to switch back and forth between our plans to best suit their needs.”

Disney says it encourages Hulu subscribers to switch to live TV when there’s a show or sporting event they want to see — college football is offered as the example — and then switch to a cheaper plan like Hulu with advertisements (currently $6 a month) or Hulu with no advertisements (currently $12 a month) when their favorite show ends or hometown team isn’t playing.

Hulu’s former subscription price — $45 a month for a mixture of Disney, NBC, Fox, Turner, CBS, A&E Networks, Scripps and most local TV stations — put it somewhere in the middle of the road as far as online pay TV providers go. It was more expensive than plans offered by Dish Network’s Sling TV or the upstart Philo, about as expensive as YouTube TV and sports-oriented Fubo and way cheaper than the retooled version of DirecTV Now (called AT&T TV Now these days).

The new base subscription price for Hulu with Live TV now makes it a costlier choice compared to almost everything else out there, including the widely-panned AT&T TV Now. Unlike Hulu, AT&T TV Now includes HBO for $5 a month less than Hulu with Live TV’s base plan (AT&T is expected to raise the price of AT&T TV Now by the end of the year; when this happens, it’ll be more expensive than Hulu with Live TV by about $10 a month).

The price increase was announced several days after parent company Disney rolled out a new on-demand streaming service called Disney Plus that has hundreds of movies and TV shows from across Disney’s vast content library, including movies from Marvel and Lucasfilm and TV shows from National Geographic and 21st Century Fox. The service is bundled with Hulu and ESPN Plus at a cost of around $12 a month or as a standalone product for $7 a month.

Hulu still has its own large library of on-demand content library that goes above and beyond what typical pay TV networks offer: It still has deals with Comcast, Warner Bros., the CW, Lionsgate and Starz to offer premium shows and movies that aren’t accessible on other services.  Whether that’s enough to keep customers from jumping ship to a cheaper option like YouTube TV, AT&T TV Now, Sling TV or Philo remains to be seen.

Hulu says Live TV customers will see the price increase reflected on their bills from December 18 onward.