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Hulu pay version launch imminent

June 29, 2010 |  7:00 am

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Viewers are accustomed to watching Hulu, the service that shows network TV programs over the Internet, for free. But a version of Hulu that will charge viewers for access will launch as early as this week, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The popular online service, which ranks second to Google Inc.'s YouTube in terms of numbers 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. 

Hulu would charge slightly less than $10 a month to watch TV shows and movies with fewer ads than currently available on the free service and on television, according to one person familiar with the matter. The service would also be introduced on new devices, including Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 game consoles. 

The new service, dubbed Hulu Plus, 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 change is coming.

"We've always been open to new business models which would complement our existing service," wrote one Hulu official 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 and Meg James

Image: Hulu

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