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Hulu Goes Live

12 Mar, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

NBC Universal and News Corp.'s ambitious joint Internet video distribution Web site, Hulu.com, went live March 12.

Bowed in beta last October, Hulu is envisioned as an online competitor to Google's video-sharing behemoth YouTube as well as a conduit for new and archived ad-supported television programming, movies and clips from Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox.

It will also feature 40 TV shows from Sony Pictures Television and movies from Lionsgate and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

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 Little Miss Sunshine, Die Hard, Vertigo, The Mummy, The Blues Brothers, The Jerk, Breaking Away, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Weekend at Bernie's, among others.

Hulu also offers archival video highlights from the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and NCAA Division IA men's basketball championship games.

Hulu content is available at partner sites, including News Corp.'s MySpace, Yahoo, Time Warner's AOL, Microsoft's MSN and Comcast's Fancast.com.

“Hulu's distribution partners are some of the most visited on the Web,” said Peter Chernin, president and COO of News Corp. “This is a powerful combination.”

User interactivity with Hulu content, including blogs, personal play lists and other social-networking features, will be limited to Hulu.com. Other features include full-screen views, pop-out window and ‘lower lights' resolution.

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

Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said the site sold out its ad spots during the beta tests and launch due to the demand by marketers for professional video versus potentially pirated non-user generated content.

Initial advertisers reportedly include Unilever, Intel, State Farm, Nissan and Best Buy.

The site is also marketing ad-supported theatrical trailers or offering studios the option to bypass commercials if they sponsor their movie release.

Phil Leigh, media analyst with Inside Digital Media in Tampa, Fla., said he felt Hulu had too many commercials for an online destination. But he couldn't argue against the quality of the content.

“They have professionally produced content,” Leigh said. “The stuff people want to see.”

He expects Google to announce updates to YouTube in the very near future.

“This definitely got their attention,” he said.

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