Japan's Hulu to charge viewers through their phone bills

The streaming video service will offer the payment service through Japan's largest carrier, NTT DoCoMo

Japan's Hulu, the only international arm of the popular U.S. video streaming service, is trying to lure mobile viewers with the option to pay through their monthly phone bills.

Hulu said the new payment method became available Tuesday through local mobile operator NTT DoCoMo, the country's largest carrier. The company said the move will enable those without credit cards to use its streaming service. In Japan many mobile phone users still pay their phone bills in cash at local banks and convenience stores.

Hulu has repeatedly tweaked its strategy to crack the Japanese market since launching in September of last year. Unlike in the U.S., where it offers a basic ad-supported service that is free to viewers, in Japan only a paid monthly subscription service is available.

In October, the company launched its service on Android-based smartphones offered by DoCoMo. Compatible handsets include popular models such as Samsung's Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II, but not Apple's iPhone.

The service originally launched in Japan for ¥1,480 (US$18) per month, but seven months later the price was slashed by a third to ¥980, as the company launched its first local ad campaign to drive sales. The local service was criticized for a shortage of compelling content after its launch, but has gradually added titles since.

Subscribers in Japan can also pay via credit card or PayPal, and viewers using the Apple TV device can use their iTunes accounts.

As in other markets, Hulu has launched an app on Nintendo's new game console in Japan, the Wii U, which went on sale domestically last week. It also has viewer software on the Windows 8 app store.

Hulu's Japan offerings include local movies, TV shows and animations, as well as Hollywood films and U.S. television series like The Walking Dead and Sex in the City, which are popular in Japan.

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Jay Alabaster

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