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Hulu Ending Free Streaming Access

8 Aug, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Separately, Verizon-acquired Yahoo — in partnership with Hulu — bows ‘Yahoo View’ featuring on-demand TV episodes from Fox, ABC and NBC

Hulu is ending free (ad-supported) streaming access, switching to a subscription-only format. Viewers of ad-supported content will be offered free trials of tiered Hulu service, which ranges from $7.99 monthly for “limited commercials,” to $11.99 for no ads.

Hulu, which launched in 2007 co-owned by The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox and Comcast, recently sold a 10% stake to Time Warner.

The move comes as the SVOD service with about 12 million subscribers tries to establish itself as a competitive alternative to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

"For the past couple years, we've been focused on building a subscription service that provides the deepest, most personalized content experience possible to our viewers," SVP Ben Smith said in a statement. "As we have continued to enhance that offering with new originals, exclusive acquisitions and movies, the free service became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy."

Specifically, Hulu — like its competitors — is attempting to steer viewers toward original content via paid subscription. While Hulu initially established itself as a conduit to primetime programming dating back at least five episodes, that programming has increasingly been licensed to broadcast networks as part of revised retransmission stacking rights.

In addition, Hulu is working with Yahoo, which just launched Yahoo View, a successor to Yahoo Screen, the short-lived ad-supported over-the-top video service. View, which incorporates Hulu’s technology, is offering free ad-supported access to TV reruns (dating back five episodes) from Fox, NBC and ABC.

“Video is an important part of Yahoo’s strategy and we’re committed to delivering the best digital video content to our users. To date, we’ve streamed amazing experiences across sports, finance, and news,” Phil Lynch, head of media partnerships at Yahoo, said in a statement. “This partnership with Hulu is a natural extension of that strategy, bringing the best of TV & entertainment content to our lifestyle vertical.”

Verizon in July acquired Yahoo for $4.83 billion — with a strategy of upping mobile access to entertainment content.

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