Hulu.com, the new online video service jointly owned by NBC Universal and Fox/News Corp., launched today in a limited beta format. While it's too early to say if Hulu.com will be the next big thing, industry watchers are comparing Hulu to YouTube, with some even viewing Hulu as a potential YouTube-killer.
The key differentiator is that Hulu.com will feature premium content, while YouTube, has become a phenomenon because of immensely popular user-generated videos.
New Hits and Old Classics
The plan for Hulu is to provide online, on-demand access to hit TV shows, movies, and other content from a variety of Hollywood's heavy hitters, including NBC, FOX, E! Entertainment, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, and Bravo.
Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement that Hulu will offer a wide selection of popular content free of charge, including full episodes and clips of hit shows like Heroes, House, The Office, and The Simpsons, as well as feature films.
Other shows featured on Hulu.com include Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Prison Break, The Pretender, and the short-lived but highly entertaining Kitchen Confidential series.
Ads Pave the Way
Since Hulu will run online video advertising, the current plan is for users to be able to view shows and movies without paying a cent. Aside from the anticipated income from advertising, Hulu also has a $100 million investment in tow, funded through private equity firm Providence Equity Partners.
Hulu's growth should also get a major jumpstart through its distribution partners. The line-up currently includes AOL, Fancast.com (from Comcast), MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo, with each distribution partner featuring a customized video player. Consumers will be able to watch the videos either online at Hulu.com or through the other sites.
In addition, Hulu will allow users to embed videos and video clips on their own Web sites and blogs, keeping users in the mix and leveraging the Web 2.0 movement that YouTube embodies.
Entertainment buffs interested in giving Hulu a test drive can sign up on the site at Hulu.com for the "private" beta test. The final version is expected to be up and running in a few months.