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CW network to offer new TV episodes on Hulu

October 28, 2011 | 12:32 pm

CW's Hart of Dixie

Continuing the evolution of its digital strategy, the CW television network said Friday it would offer online streams of new episodes through Hulu and the Hulu Plus subscription service.

The five-year deal with Hulu comes just two weeks after the CW, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment, announced a similar partnership with Netflix. Netflix will make available episodes of past seasons of CW shows, including "Gossip Girl" and "Vampire Diaries," to its subscribers.

The Hulu deal is different because the service, owned by media giants News Corp., NBCUniversal and the Walt Disney Co., will have the exclusive right to stream episodes of such new CW shows as "Ringer" and "Hart of Dixie" as well as returning series. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The two deals mark a major switch in strategy for the small broadcast network, which until now had tightly held the digital rights to its shows. In a bid to protect its TV ratings, the network delayed the online availability of its episodes and steered viewers to its own advertising-supported CW website.

But by striking deals with such major players as Netflix and Hulu, CW is carving out a new revenue stream, which should eventually allow the network -- launched in 2006 -- to finally become profitable.  Episodes will continue to be available on the CW's ad-supported website.

The CW said Hulu Plus would be the only online subscription service to carry current episodes of nine of its shows. Beginning later this year, the five most recent episodes of its prime-time series would be made available to subscribers the day after the television broadcast, the CW said. 

Meanwhile, the free, ad-supported Hulu service will offer episodes of the CW's current season programming eight days after they aired on the network -- a pattern similar to what the CW had been using for its own website.

News Corp.'s Fox adopted a similar approach with current episodes of its broadcast shows, including "Glee" and "New Girl."

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-- Meg James

Photo:  Rachel Bilson as Dr. Zoe Hart and Scott Porter as George Tucker on the CW's new fall drama "Hart of Dixie." Credit:  Michael Yarish / CW

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