Hulu is a website that offers commercial-supported streaming video of TV shows and movies from NBC, Fox and many other networks and studios. Hulu videos are currently offered only to users in the United States. Hulu provides video in Flash Video format, including many films and shows that are available in 480p and high-definition. Hulu also provides web syndication services for other websites including AOL, MSN, MySpace, Facebook, Yahoo!, and Comcast’s fancast.com.
Hulu is a joint venture of NBC Universal (GE) and Fox Entertainment Group (News Corp), with funding by Providence Equity Partners, which made a US$100 million equity investment and holds a 10% stake.
On April 30, 2009 it was announced that ABC, Inc (Disney) would take a 27% stake in the venture, joining NBC and Fox.
The Hulu venture was announced in March 2007 with AOL, MSN, Facebook, and Yahoo! planned as “initial distribution partners.” Jason Kilar was named the CEO in June. 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. 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.” Advertisements have since aired featuring Eliza Dushku, Seth MacFarlane and Denis Leary.
Hulu distributes video both 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 and FOX programs and movies, Hulu carries shows from other networks such as Comedy Central, PBS, USA Network, Bravo, Fuel TV, FX, SPEED Channel, Sci Fi, Style, Sundance, E!, G4, Versus, A&E, and Oxygen.
Currently, Hulu’s content is only available in the United States with licensing reasons cited. An exception to this was Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which was made available without regional restrictions for a limited time on Hulu, and was since added to the iTunes Store. As of February 2009, Hulu has pulled its content from CBS Corp.’s tv.com, and from Boxee, a software firm that makes Internet video suitable for viewing on a large screen, like a television connected to a PC. However, Hulu still works with PlayOn, which when combined with a PS3, XBox 360 or certain other devices allows playback of Hulu content on a TV. Also, Boxee produced a workaround for Hulu support.
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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.
Hulu is an online video provider held by NBC Universal, News Corporation, and, as of April 2009, Disney. The site focuses exclusively on professional content and does not take on YouTube directly as a viral video destination. The site raised $100 million in financing from Providence Equity Partners. Hulu is currently the third largest video provider on the web.
Hulu videos are played in their own embeddable branded player. Content from at least a dozen TV networks and two major film studios is promised. Initial distribution partners include AOL, Comcast, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo.
Jason Kilar, Hulu’s CEO, explains Hulu’s name, “Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we’re building.” However, some aren’t so sure it was the wisest name to pick.
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