Hulu (stylized as hulu) is an American subscription video on demand service owned by Hulu LLC, a joint venture with The Walt Disney Company (through Disney–ABC Television Group) (30%), 21st Century Fox (through Fox Entertainment Group) (30%), Comcast (through NBCUniversal) (30%), and as of August 10, 2016, Time Warner (through Turner Broadcasting System) (10%, minority stake).
It is primarily oriented towards television series, carrying current and past episodes of series from its owners' respective television networks and other content partners. Previously it was divided into free and paid tiers, with the free service limited in the amount of content accessible by users and accessible via PC only, and a paid service with a larger library of content and accessed via Hulu applications for various mobile and connected devices. The subscription service is, in turn, divided into advertising-supported and mostly ad-free tiers. In 2016, Hulu spun out its free content into a joint venture with Yahoo! called Yahoo! View and launched a live television streaming service on May 3, 2017.
Hulu is offered only to users in Japan and the United States and its overseas territories.
In Mandarin, Hulu has two interesting meanings, each highly relevant to our mission. The primary meaning interested us because it is used in an ancient Chinese proverb that describes the Hulu as the holder of precious things. It literally translates to "gourd", and in ancient times, the Hulu was hollowed out and used to hold precious things. The secondary meaning is "interactive recording". We saw both definitions as appropriate bookends and highly relevant to the mission of Hulu.
Key executives instrumental in the founding of Hulu include Bruce Campbell, Peter Chernin, JB Perrette, Michael Lang, Beth Comstock and Jason Kilar. The venture was announced in March 2006 with AOL, Comcast, Facebook, MSN, Myspace, and Yahoo! planned as "initial distribution partners". Kilar was named the CEO in June 2006.
The name Hulu was chosen in late August 2007, when the website went live, with an announcement only and no content. It invited users to leave their email addresses for the upcoming beta test. In October, Hulu began the private beta testing by invitation, and later allowed users to invite friends. Hulu launched for public access in the United States on March 12, 2008. The first product to launch was the HULU Syndication network, which was designed and developed by the NBC Universal team from New York, on October 29, 2007, followed by the Hulu.com destinations site.
Hulu began an advertising campaign during NBC's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII with an initial ad starring Alec Baldwin titled "Alec in Huluwood". The ad intended to humorously reveal "the shocking secret behind Hulu", portraying the site as being an "evil plot to destroy the world" by suggesting that Baldwin is really an alien in disguise. Advertisements have since aired featuring Eliza Dushku, Seth MacFarlane, Denis Leary, and Will Arnett.
In July 2007, Providence Equity Partners, the owner of Newport Television, became one of the earliest "outside" investors by purchasing a 10 percent stake in the company for US$100 million equity investment, before the company was known as "Hulu". With its investment came a seat on the board of directors, where Providence was said to act as an "independent voice on the board". In October 2012, Providence sold its 10 percent stake to "Hulu's media owners" and ceased participation in the board.
Early in 2010, Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar said the service had made a profit in two quarters and that the company could top $100 million in revenue by summer 2010, more than its income for all of 2009. ComScore says monthly video streams reached 903 million in January 2010, over three times the figure for a year earlier, and second only to YouTube.
On June 21, 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that an "unsolicited offer" caused Hulu to begin "weighing whether to sell itself." On October 13, 2011 however, Hulu and its owners announced that they would not sell the company, as none of the bidders offered an amount that was satisfactory to its owners.
It was reported that in 2011, Hulu made $420 million. The figure was $80 million short of the predicted revenue. The vacant CEO post was officially filled by former Fox Networks President Mike Hopkins on October 17, 2013.
Following the start of its service, Hulu signed deals with several new content providers making additional material available to consumers.
Starting August 15, 2011, viewers of content from Fox and related networks are required to authenticate paid cable or satellite service wherever Fox streams episodes, including on Hulu, to be able to watch them the morning after the first airing. Non-subscribers will see those episodes delayed a week before they are viewable.
In 2015, Hulu began offering content from Showtime for an additional $8.99/month, which is cheaper than Showtime's own streaming service.
On June 16, 2016, Hulu announced a deal with the Disney-ABC Television Group for the exclusive SVOD rights to past seasons of seven Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD series, and more than 20 Disney Channel original movies.
On September 18, 2016, all content from The CW was removed from Hulu, as The CW's own website and apps became the exclusive portals for streaming their shows during the current season, with Netflix becoming the exclusive streaming provider for The CW shows post-current season.
As of January 2017[update], a limited amount of content from CBS's library is available on-demand, mostly limited to shows that are no longer producing new episodes. On January 4, 2017, it was reported that a deal was reached to bring live broadcasts of CBS and several affiliated channels to Hulu's upcoming live streaming service as well as to make more shows available on-demand.
At an industry conference held on October 21, 2009, News Corporation Deputy Chairman Chase Carey stated that Hulu "needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business" and that it would likely start charging for at least some content by 2010. Carey's comment jibes with other News Corp. heads, including Rupert Murdoch who has expressed a desire to charge for content with a number of online units.
The Hulu monthly subscription service called Hulu Plus was launched in beta (preview) on June 29, 2010 and officially launched on November 17, 2010. Like the free version of Hulu, the content available with a Hulu subscription also contains advertising. However, it offers an expanded content library including full seasons, day-after access to current season content and more episodes of shows available through the free Hulu. A Hulu subscription also provides a wider array of viewing choices. The free-access to Hulu was only available on PCs and laptops, while a Hulu subscription allows viewers to access Hulu through all Hulu-supported devices including set-top boxes, smart TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. A little more than a year after the launch of the Hulu subscription service, the number of paying subscribers reached 1.5 million. In May 2016, Hulu reported it had reached 12 million subscribers.
On April 29, 2015, Hulu announced to the press that they would do away with the "Plus" brand name to reduce confusion between the paid and free plans.
The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2015 that Hulu was exploring an advertising-free subscription option for around $12 to $14 a month. This was confirmed as going forward as of September 2, 2015, with a "No Commercials" plan priced at $11.99, $4 more than the $7.99 monthly rate for a "Limited Commercials" subscription, though a few highlight network series (less than 10) would retain pre-roll and post-roll ad pods.
On August 8, 2016, Hulu announced that it would end the availability of its free streaming service through its own platform, making it oriented exclusively to subscription services. In turn, the company announced a partnership with Yahoo! to move this free content, which consists primarily of recent episodes of ABC, Fox, and NBC series, to a new website known as Yahoo! View.
In May 2016, Hulu announced that it planned to begin offering an over-the-top IPTV service with "live programming from broadcast and cable brands" some time in 2017. In late 2016, co-owners 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company agreed to supply their channels to the streaming service, joined by Time Warner, which previously reached an agreement with Hulu.
The service, marketed only as "Hulu with Live TV," which couples the live TV offerings with Hulu's existing library of television series and films, launched in beta on May 3, 2017. The $39.99-per-month service – which provides support for Xbox One, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices – offers live streams of more than 50 broadcast and cable-originated channels, including feeds of the five major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW – as well as cable channels owned by Hulu co-parents NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company, along with CBS Corporation, Turner Broadcasting System, Scripps Networks Interactive and A+E Networks (encompassing networks such as CNN, Food Network, Disney Channel, A&E, MSNBC and ESPN), with the Showtime OTT service available as an add-on for an extra fee. Currently, live content from the major broadcast networks is limited to owned-and-operated stations and affiliates based in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia; Hulu representatives stated that it intends to negotiate carriage agreements with independently-owned broadcasting groups to gain distribution rights to local stations from additional markets. Features include the ability to create up of six user account profiles per a single subscription (with personalized program recommendations based on a user's favorite programs and varying simultaneous streams depending on the package), personalized sports recommendations and a cloud DVR with between 50 and 200 hours of storage depending on the level of service (the lower-tier DVR does not have ad skipping functionality).
Viewership numbers for the site are tracked by measurement firms such as ComScore, Nielsen ratings, and Quantcast. In partnership with comScore, Hulu is the first digital company to receive multi-platform measurement at an individual level that includes co-viewing for living room devices. When factoring this in, Hulu's reach among A18-49 increases 50 percent.
However, the reliability of these metrics has been drawn into question, partly due to widely divergent estimates. For example, between May and June 2010, ComScore updated its scoring methodology and its estimates for Hulu dropped from 43.5 million unique viewers to 24 million in a single month. In a comScore digital trends report in 2010, comScore's Digital Year in Review report found that Hulu was watched twice as much as viewers who watched on the websites of the five major TV networks combined.
As of 2016, 69 percent of Hulu viewing takes place on regular television sets through connected devices.
Hulu distributes video on its own website and syndicates its hosting to other sites, and allows users to embed Hulu clips on their websites. In addition to NBC, ABC and Fox programs and movies, Hulu carries shows from networks such as A&E, Big Ten Network, Bravo, E!, Fox Sports 2, FX, G4, PBS, NFL Network, Oxygen, RT America, Fox Sports 1, Esquire Network, SundanceTV, Syfy, USA Network, NBCSN, and online comedy sources such as Onion News Network. Hulu retains between thirty and fifty percent of advertising revenue generated by the shows it distributes.
In November 2009, Hulu also began to establish partnerships with record labels to host music videos and concert performances on the site, including EMI in November 2009, and Warner Music Group in December 2009.
In early March 2010, Viacom announced that it was pulling two of the website's most popular shows, The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, off Hulu. The programs had been airing on Hulu since late 2008. A spokesman for Viacom noted that "in the current economic model, there is not that much in it for us to continue at this time. If they can get to the point where the monetization model is better, then we may go back." In February 2011, both shows were made available for streaming on Hulu again. The Daily Show was again removed from Hulu in March 2017 in order to push viewers to watch the program on Viacom and Comedy Central's apps.
As of January 17, 2011, Hulu has streamed its own in-house web series The Morning After, a light-hearted pop-culture news show. It is produced by Hulu in conjunction with Jace Hall's HDFilms and stars Brian Kimmet and Ginger Gonzaga. Producing the show is a first for the company, which in the past has been primarily a content distributor.
On January 16, 2012, Hulu announced that it would be airing its first original script based program, titled Battleground, scheduled to air in February 2012. The program will air on Hulu's free web service rather than on the subscription-based Hulu Plus. Battleground is described as a documentary-style political drama.
Later that same month, Hulu announced it would air The Fashion Fund, a six-part reality series, and the winner of the show will receive $300,000 to start their career.
To continue with its original programming movement, Hulu announced that there will be a total of seven original programs that are planned to air on its service: Battleground, Day in the Life, and Up to Speed were previously mentioned; and on April 19, Hulu added four more shows to its list: Don't Quit Your Daydream, Flow, The Awesomes, and We Got Next. Some of these programs began airing in 2012, while others will premiere over the next few years.
On May 21, 2012, Hulu announced it would be bringing Kevin Smith to its line-up of original programming. Smith hosts a movie discussion show titled Spoilers, which began airing in the summer of 2012.
On July 12, 2014, it was announced that Hulu had signed a three-year deal purchasing exclusive online streaming rights to the South Park library. Through the deal, the South Park Studios website became powered by Hulu video and featured advertising. Along with this, the domain name changed from "southparkstudios.com" to "southpark.cc.com". Previously, the show had been available on Netflix. The new site launch caused some technical issues, which were resolved allowing fans to watch uncensored episodes and clips. For viewers outside the US, episodes and clips still stream through the “classic” South Park player and nothing changed aside from the new site design. A handful of countries also have their own localized versions of South Park sites, with the old experience.
It was announced that beginning in September 2014, following the premiere of the 18th season, only 30 select episodes will be featured for free viewing at a time on the website, with new episodes being available for an entire month starting the day following their original airings. The entire series is available for viewing on the Hulu subscription service.
On May 14, 2015, AT&T struck a deal with Hulu that would give its customers access to streaming service on both regular and premium tiers. On October 22, 2016, AT&T announced a deal to buy Time Warner, who owns 10% of Hulu, for $108.7 billion.
At the start of April 2014, Neon Alley, a Viz Media-owned 24/7 anime-oriented streaming service that started on October 2, 2012, streaming to both US and Canadian markets (similar to Æsir Media Group LLC and Valkyrie Media Partners LLC's Anime Network, The Chernin Group and TV Tokyo's Crunchyroll and Aniplex of America's Aniplex Channel), discontinued its web network format and relaunched as a Free Video on Demand (FVOD) service streaming anime to the US market through its website or Internet-connected devices through Hulu. As a result, with Hulu being unable to stream to the Canadian market, Neon Alley stopped streaming to that market and restricted its service to the US market only. This leaves Anime Network, Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Aniplex Channel as the only anime-focused streaming services streaming to the Canadian market at the same time as the US market, though these four all continue today. On July 21, 2016, Tubi TV announced that they had commenced streaming of certain Viz titles in Canada.
In July 2010, the Financial Times revealed that Hulu had been working on plans for an international launch of Hulu Plus for several months, and had identified the UK and Japan as markets where its free website and subscription model could feasibly work. Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar expressed his belief that the US model could be replicated elsewhere, saying "We won't be satisfied until this is a global service." Hulu's first expansion into an international market took place with the launch of a service in Japan on September 1, 2011.
In 2013, Nippon Television Network Corporation (Nippon TV) acquired Hulu's Japan business. The transaction, which is subject to certain regulatory conditions, marked Nippon TV's entry into the SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) business. Through the acquisition, the Hulu service continues to offer Japanese consumers premium content, including Hollywood and Japanese films and dramas and popular television programming. Additionally, Nippon TV's popular shows and original exclusive content launched on the Hulu service in Japan, expanding its content offering. Japanese users have access to a library of popular television shows such as the CSI franchise, Grey's Anatomy, Prison Break, and Ugly Betty, and as well as movies such as Armageddon, Men in Black, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Hulu is unable to launch in Canada due to the relatively small size of Canada's online advertising market and because Canada's television networks already have the exclusive online streaming rights in Canada to several titles offered on Hulu, including many mainstream American television network programs. The absence of Hulu in the Canadian market raised concerns by fans of the sitcom The Mindy Project when it was cancelled by Fox in the spring of 2015 and subsequently picked up by Hulu; the show's Canadian broadcaster, City, subsequently announced it would continue to air the series in Canada. At present, Canadian consumers have access to several other streaming systems, including a Canadian version of Netflix, CraveTV and Crackle, but with CraveTV streaming some programming from inaccessible-to-Canadian-viewers platforms such as Hulu and Amazon.
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