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Testing Over, to Open Its TV and Film Offerings This Week

Posted by Mort Greenberg on March 13, 2008


March 11, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO —, the long-gestating Internet joint venture between NBC Universal and Fox, emerges from limited testing on Wednesday to make its catalog of TV shows and video clips available to anyone on the Web.

The streaming-video site displays free, ad-supported shows and feature films from NBC, Fox and more than 50 media companies, including Sony Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

On Wednesday, Hulu is also planning to announce that the Warner Brothers Television Group and Lionsgate will add content from their libraries. Hulu will also give sports fans highlights from N.B.A. and N.H.L. games, and full-length N.C.A.A. men’s basketball games from the last 25 years, the company said.

Hulu’s videos also appear on AOL, MSN, Comcast, MySpace and Yahoo. Over 5,000 Web sites have embedded clips from Hulu, the company said.

Hulu has so far failed to recruit two major television networks, ABC, a division of Walt Disney, and CBS. Jason Kilar, Hulu’s chief executive, said that he was still having regular conversations with executives at the two networks. But even without them, he said, the company has quadrupled the number of show titles in its library since testing began.

“We won’t stop until we have everything in terms of premium content. That is our mission,” he said. “I just think back to the fact that 24 months ago, there wasn’t anything online legally in terms of full TV episodes or films. In just 17 weeks, we have gone from nothing to over 200 premium titles.”

NBC Universal, a division of General Electric, and Fox, a division of the News Corporation, announced their joint venture to much fanfare nearly a year ago. The then-unnamed company was at first viewed skeptically by many in the industry as a desperate attempt to keep up with the Google’s YouTube, the dominant player in online video.

Recently, Hulu has received high marks from media and Web executives for creating an easy to use site with high-quality video and professional content attractive to advertisers.

Hulu has been in a password-protected testing period since October, but has slowly been inviting users to enter the site. Mr. Kilar said that more than five million viewers have watched Hulu videos in the last 30 days, and that 80 percent of the shows on the site are viewed at least once a week.

Hulu is experimenting with giving viewers a choice in advertising. During certain shows, viewers will be able to choose which commercial they want to watch — for example, whether they want to see an ad for Nissan’s Rogue S.U.V., Maxima sedan or Z sports car.

Some viewers will also be given the opportunity to watch a two-minute film preview before a TV show, and then skip all the other advertising breaks.

One challenge Hulu faces is building a predictable and stable library of content. To protect DVD and Web download sales, media companies often make TV shows and films available free on the Web for certain periods of time and then remove them. For example, there are 11 episodes of the TV show “24” on Hulu — beginning with episode 18 of the first season.

“If those episodes keep disappearing, they are going to have trouble getting people to go back and recommend TV shows on Hulu to their friends,” said Bobby Tulsiani, an analyst at JupiterResearch.


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