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Hulu is now the biggest live-TV streaming service after Sling subscribers shrink

Hulu is now the biggest live-TV streaming service after Sling subscribers shrink
[Photo: Allyson Riggs/Hulu]

Hulu is now officially the top live TV streaming service, overtaking Sling TV for the first time last quarter.

Dish Network reported this morning that its Sling TV service finished Q4 2019 with 2.59 million subscribers, having lost 94,000 subscribers from the prior quarter. Hulu + Live TV, meanwhile, continues to grow, finishing last quarter with a record 3.4 million subscribers. The next closest streaming bundle competitor is YouTube TV with two million subscribers. Both Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV raised prices in Q4, but not until late December, so the full effects of those price hikes probably won’t be felt until next quarter.

Sling TV was the first live TV streaming service out of the gate in early 2015, but it’s hovered around 2.5 million subscribers throughout 2019 even as other services have grown. That may have to do with its atypical channel packages. Whereas most live TV streaming services replicate the cable bundle with local stations, regional sports, cable news, and a large number of entertainment channels, Sling has avoided carrying local channels to keep prices down while encouraging customers use antennas. It also splits its channels across two base packages, and has not carried regional Fox Sports networks since a falling out with Sinclair, the new owner of those networks, over the summer.

While those decisions do allow Sling to be cheaper and more flexible than other streaming TV bundles, it also makes the service more confusing for cord cutters to navigate. The continued growth of Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV is a sign that most people are willing to pay a bit more to have everything in one place.

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