Hello, hulu

If Netflix is the poster child for streaming video — with a following of 20 million and counting — then Hulu is the forgotten variety.

In only its third year, Hulu is becoming quite the player and is holding ground in its mission to keep Netflix from taking over the (internet video) world.

In fact, its business model might even be more stable: ad-supported streaming of videos and TV shows. It’s a model that’s worked for media companies since, well, the dawn of media. From newspaper and magazine, to radio, to TV and now online.

Hulu’s CEO Jason Kilar projects revenue will double in 2011 to more than $500 million for all things Hulu: Hulu.com and Hulu Plus. Up from $240 million in 2010 and $108 million in 2009. Netflix clocked in at $2.16 billion in revenue in 2010 according to Netflix Q4 2010 financial statements. Up from $1.67 billion in revenue in 2009. And Netflix opts for ad-free content, for now at least. They’ve flip-flopped before.

Hulu is on pace to hit 1 million subscribers in 2011 according to CEO Jason Kilar. A quick calculation will show you how big of a role advertising revenue plays in Hulu’s structure. And how important it will be in its future. In addition, according to Brian Stelter of The New York Times, content providers receive some 50 to 70 percent of advertising revenue. In a similar fashion to pay TV; though from what I understand Hulu offers a higher percentage to its content providers.

As for Netflix, the company has yet to incorporate advertising on any level. Correction: Netflix has advertising on the inside flap of its DVD-by-mail sleeve.

NBC Universal to Comcast

In late January of this year, the nation’s largest cable TV company, Comcast, purchased NBC Universal from GE, which included stake in Hulu.

Hulu is now jointly owned by Comcast ‘s NBC Universal, The Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and global private equity investment first Providence Equity Partners. In the sale of NBC Universal to Comcast, GE had to relinquish its decision-making power and 32% stake of Hulu.

The NBC Universal-to-Comcast deal gave Comcast 51% control of NBC Universal, now labeled NBCUniversal (no space and no peacock). Previously, GE owned 80 percent. Prior to the sale, GE purchased the remaining 20 percent stake from Vivendi Universal. GE’s stake in NBCUniversal is now 49 percent, though according to USA Today the company plans to completely remove its shares over the next eight years.

The Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission included provisions in the deal that prevent Comcast from blocking NBC programming to other providers. As part of the deal, Comcast agreed to let NBC programming air on its rivals networks including Netflix.

Now that we got that legal jargon out of the way, let’s take a look at the content.

Hello, hulu. An overview of its services

hulu.com

Hulu is free for all, online at hulu.com

Free on hulu.com with advertising in each episode. The Hulu Plus option offers an expanded library and brings it directly to your TV via a high-speed Internet connection.

Hulu, free for all on hulu.com, has more than 200 content providers including NBC, ABC, FOX, PBS, USA Network, Bravo, Fuel TV, FX, NFL Network, Speed, the Big Ten Network, Syfy, Style, Sundance, E!, G4, Versus, A&E, Oxygen and other online networks.

What you’ll find:

TV programming, some of which the day after it airs on pay TV. Previous seasons/episodes, webisodes and current programming  including ABC News, ABC 20/20, Good Morning America, 30 Rock, American Dad, The Biggest Loser, Big Ten Icons, Big Ten Greatest Games, Bones, Bob’s Burgers, The Celebrity Apprentice, Celebrity Rehab, Chuck, Colbert Report, Community, The Daily Show, Family Guy, Fora.tv, Fox News, Glee, Greek, House, How to Look Good Naked, Imus in the Morning, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Jersey Shore, Kitchen Nightmares, Law & Order, Lie to Me, Lost, Master Chef, NFL Films Presents, Nightline from ABC, NOVA, Parks and Recreation, Project Runway, Rescue Me, Saturday Night Live, Super Nanny, Top Chef, Tosh.0, Wired Science…and a ton more.

Those are just a few that caught my eye. The list was far too big to count. Why not take a look for yourself: Hulu.com browse TV.

Again, current seasons, some of which are available the day after they air on TV.

And this is the free version, which is only available on your computer. But if you want to go through the trouble, you could hook up your PC to your TV using an HDMI cable (OK?). Or if you’ve got an older set, Googlecomputer to tv cable” and you’ll see other options like s-video cables or VGA. HDMI offers the highest quality and is the easiest to use if your computer and TV have the capability.

Some episodes on hulu.com are only available for a short period of time. And the free hulu.com content doesn’t offer as much of the previous-season library of Netflix. But Hulu Plus comes a little closer, offering TV content sometimes from the first episode of season one to the most-recently aired episode in the current season.

hulu plus

Hulu Plus is available for $7.99 per month

Hulu Plus – for $7.99 per month – brings a lot to the table. Though Hulu Plus can stand on its own, it makes a perfect companion to Netflix and its breadth of on-demand content.

The same great content from Hulu.com, but a lot more including previous seasons and episodes as well as movies. Hulu Plus also connects it all to your TV, making it available with the click of a button (Once you’ve got everything set up, which is easy enough. All you’ll need is a Hulu-compatible device like a Blu-ray player, video-game system or other box. And a subscription to Hulu Plus for $7.99 per month. For a guide of compatible devices, click here. It’s a pdf.).

According to Hulu, its Plus offering provides access to more than 16,000 episodes from more than 400 current and classic shows. As well as the recent exclusive content from the Criterion Collection.

The biggest advantage of Hulu Plus over its competition (Netflix included) continues to be current episodes a day after they air. Current Content. A position Netflix had seemingly surrendered to Hulu until last week, when it announced that it’s buying the rights to “House of Cards,” a series starring Kevin Spacey. The show premieres late next year and will be available exclusively on Netflix for at least two seasons. This is big news for Netflix and Internet TV as a whole. It also goes against the company’s public stance only two months ago. Here’s a clip from a message to its shareholders on Jan. 26, 2011.

“Our primary strategy is to offer complete previous seasons of shows rather than offering those shows the day of, or a few days after, broadcast, during the critical ratings and revenue window. This is in the best interest of content owners and is consistent with our desire to offer a very low-cost service for consumers.” -Netflix in a message to shareholders Jan. 26, 2011.

More on Netflix and “House of Cards” in a future post.

Here’s the direct link to Hulu Plus content from Hulu.com/plus: http://www.hulu.com/plus#content

And here’s a fancy walk-through from hulu.com: http://www.hulu.com/watch/160617/hulu-walkthrough-what-is-hulu-plus

hulu mobile

“The world is becoming increasingly mobile. And the brands and companies that move with that shift will prosper. While those that don’t will have to play catch-up.” ericsadblog.com Feb. 13, 2011

Hulu Plus on iPhone

Hulu plus is also available on mobile devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch. Hulu says “many more devices coming soon.” Android smartphones and are next according to the website.

In only its third year, Hulu is becoming quite the player and is holding ground in its mission to keep Netflix from taking over the (internet video) world.

Though it has a long way to go to catch up to Netflix, for the future of streaming video — and all the cable cutters out there — the competition Hulu offers Big Red will benefit the industry, not hold it back.

Images courtesy of casualgadget.net, intomobile.com, obsessable.com, blastmagazine.com.

Source: USA Today, Netflix.com, Hulu.com, Reuters, New York Times, Boston.com

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