Hulu is celebrating its first year and adding new features. The online video service, co-owned by News Corp., NBC Universal, and Providence Equity Partners, went from beta to live a year ago and began offering users access to online videos, television shows, and clips from various content providers.
As part of its milestone celebration, Hulu has added a Friends feature to Hulu.com. The site integrated with e-mail providers, including Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail, and social-networking companies Facebook and MySpace to let users invite friends to Hulu.
Similar to the way users on Facebook can keep track of what their friends are doing with status updates, Hulu has added a Tab to the Friends feature allowing users to keep track of what friends are watching, subscribing to, and discussing.
Ups and Downs
Once the friends are added, users will be able to share content by sending videos along with a note or by posting them to outside sites, including Digg, Delicious, MySpace and Facebook, according to the company. Users can also keep a scorecard of how many videos they have watched or rated, according to Hulu.
As of January, Hulu had more than 24 million users on a monthly basis, according to comScore VideoMetrix, and with the new feature that number is expected to grow. Hulu has gained a lot of momentum in its first year and has been backed by top video and TV players, including Fox, MGM and Sony Pictures Television.
CEO Jason Kilar said in a blog post Thursday that Hulu has enjoyed tremendous growth. He shared some company stats, including increasing the number of content partners from 50 to more than 130, the number of advertisers from 30 to 175, and the number of streams from 63 million (as of May) to 308 million.
Some of the same content providers that made Hulu popular also created a major bump in the road last month. In mid-February, at content providers' request, Hulu blocked Boxee, an application that sent content to Boxee users, who had made Hulu their most requested Web site. Users weren't happy, and neither was Boxee.
Hulu executives, however, said their hands were tied because content providers requested Hulu to "turn off access to our content via the Boxee product."
Kilar said he appreciated that Boxee users would likely think Hulu was "nuts" for making such a decision.
Adding the Friends feature may be Hulu's way of making up the fan base it lost from Boxee, since its Friends feature is similar to what Boxee does in enabling users to view, rate and recommend content through social networking.