YouTube rival Hulu debuts with TV shows, movies, sports

Hulu is a joint online video project of NBC Universal and News Corp.

Hulu, a joint online video project of NBC Universal and News Corp., is set to go live this week with programming from Time Warner's television group, Lions Gate Entertainment and sports groups. A beta version of the site was launched in October.

Hulu, described as a YouTube rival, will offer full-length episodes from more than 250 televisions series, including "The Simpsons" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" along with more than 100 movies, according to a report from Reuters. Hulu has also signed video licensing deals with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, Reuters said.

A spokesman from NBC Universal parent company General Electric did not return a call requesting comment on Hulu.

Liz Cannes, a blogger for NewTeeVee, noted that Hulu is reporting an audience of five million viewers on the site in the past 30 days, which she described as "pretty insane for a semi-private beta."

Cannes added that the site's viewing experience has improved since the beta program started by instituting full seasons of some current shows and movies supported by trailers rather than interrupting ads.

"We'll be watching to see if it can hit the mainstream," Cannes noted. "We know some 16 per cent of American Internet households are watching TV online already. Streaming web video is never going to be the be-all end-all, but as a happy Hulu beta tester I would bet it's gonna be big."

Paul Glazowski, a blogger at Mashable.com, noted that he expects ABC and CBS to join the effort at some point, "which would undoubtedly offer considerably more weight to Hulu's long-term business prospects."

"Though (ABC and CBS) both presently operate standalone video portals of their own, there's little reason to suspect that a partial migration to Hulu will occur," he said.

"Web video, despite its fresh-faced allure and burgeoning consumer demand, is one that is for the most part unprofitable for large networks now. Web advertising prices don't yet amount to a valuation that can be considered amply supplemental to the networks' present-day income. The tried-and-true standard broadcast and cable television mediums are by far the cash kinds of television at the moment," he added.

Therefore, he said, the more viewers the networks can reach online to generate more ad revenue, the better. The best way to reach more viewers online would be to participate in a concentrated effort like Hulu backed industry-wide, he noted.

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