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Hulu Debuts Backed with Content Deals, Financing

29 Oct, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

"30 Rock" is among the shows offered on Hulu.com.

NBC Universal and News Corp. Oct. 29 formally launched a private beta edition of a joint Internet video distribution Web site, Hulu.com.

The site also is available as a customized video player at distribution partners AOL, Comcast's Fancast.com, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo.

Hulu — announced last spring as an online conduit for new and archived ad-supported television programming, movies and clips from Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox — also will feature 40 TV shows from Sony Pictures Television.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. will offer feature-length movies and TV programming as well.

Programming includes episodes of “24,” “30 Rock,” “Andy Barker P.I.,” “Arrested Development,” “Bionic Woman,” “Bones,” “House,” “Heroes,” “Chuck,” “Scrubs,” “The Office,” “The Simpsons,” “Stacked,” and movies The Blues Brothers, The Jerk, Breaking Away, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Weekend at Bernie's, among others.

The site received $100 million in funding from Providence Equity Partners, a private equity firm specializing in entertainment ventures.

“The launch with our distribution partners as well as our beta is an important first step in delivering a service that lets people enjoy their favorites, anytime, anywhere,” Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu, said in a statement.

Despite the media giants' low profile on the topic of third-party user-generated content on Hulu, scuttlebutt suggests the site all along has been earmarked as competition to YouTube.

Jon Cody, acting GM for the venture, discussed the possibility during a June 12 seminar on mass media programming at the Digital Hollywood Conference in Santa Monica, Calif.

“It's up in the air how much [user-generated programming] we'll have,” he said. “… But we look at it as a genre, a class on content that can live side-by-side with our professionally produced content. I think you're going to see a wide swath of content over the whole spectrum.”

In their announcement, NBC Universal and News Corp. said users “can embed videos throughout the Web, including their own” in order to expand Hulu's distribution capabilities.

Chris Tribbey contributed to this report.

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