Hulu launches a preview of its subscription service
Popular online video service Hulu on Tuesday will announce the launch of an ad-supported subscription service that will offer top broadcast shows in high definition to be viewed from a plethora of devices, including Internet-connected TVs, set-top boxes and game consoles, as well as portable devices such as Apple's iPad and iPhone.
The service, which will cost $9.99 a month, will offer the full run of current prime-time shows such as "Family Guy," "Glee," "Modern Family," "30 Rock" and "The Office." It will also offer complete past seasons of classic shows that include "Arrested Development," "Law & Order: SVU" and "The X-Files." The library contains content from more than 100 providers, from broadcast networks and major studios to independent producers.
To differentiate the pay service from the free online offering, Hulu Plus will display shows on an array of devices, including Samsung Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players, Apple's iPad, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, and the third-generation iPod Touch, and, soon, Sony's PlayStation 3 game console.
In the coming months, Hulu Plus will be available through devices Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players from Sony and Vizio. Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console will offer Hulu Plus early next year.
The popular online service, which ranks second to Google Inc.'s YouTube in terms of the number of videos watched, has been under pressure from its media owners, News Corp., NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co., to find new sources of revenue. The companies recognize that more people want to watch TV shows and movies online -- but executives are loath to do so in a way that undercuts the lucrative cable contracts that underwrite the cost of producing expensive content.
The new service has been expected for months and prompted an outcry from some users who don't want to surrender their free online access to popular shows. Hulu has acknowledged that change is coming.
"We've always been open to new business models which would complement our existing service," one Hulu official wrote on the company's blog in May. "The free, ad-supported business model is great, but there are many other content owners who have chosen and are successful with other models, subscription or otherwise. We want users to have access to the widest selection of premium video possible, and we'll continue to explore how to bring you more content in the best way possible."
-- Dawn C. Chmielewski