Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

As Promised: Here’s Hulu Plus, for Some of You

Here it is, finally: Hulu Plus. Otherwise known as: “The chance for some of you to fork over $9.99 a month to watch Hulu.”

What does that money get you?

As I’ve discussed before–most recently, last week–it gets you more shows than the free version offers, and more devices, most notably Apple’s (AAPL) iPad. It won’t get you ad-free shows, though. Hulu officials say the company will use the platform as a chance to extend the reach of its advertisers and that they’ve already got Nissan and Bud Light signed on.

Hulu and its joint venture owners–News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, GE’s (GE) NBC, and Disney’s (DIS) ABC–have been working for most of the spring to get this worked out, but for now, it’s still an invite-only trial. Last week, I heard the trial might be limited to just 10,000 people, but I’ve yet to hear an official number from Hulu.

But! Hulu is allowing users with subscriptions to download a Hulu app for the iPhone, iPad, etc., to give the thing a test drive with a limited selection of shows.

Is it worth it? It should be interesting to see what consumers say. The pitch to gadget-centric folks: Check out all the hardware you can use! In addition to the iPad, Hulu Plus will work on the iPhone and iPod touch. Also included: Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and game machines from Samsung, Sony (SNE) and Microsoft (MSFT).

The pitch to TV nuts: Look at all the shows you can see! But here the pitch is a bit more nuanced, because Hulu and its owners have had to hammer out, show by show, what they’re going to offer you. So it’s not an all-you-can-eat proposition, it’s an eat-a-lot proposition. Most notably, the service is light on content from cable networks, even those owned by the Hulu’s partners. Thus, no “Justified” from FX or “Top Chef” from Bravo.

That shouldn’t be a surprise, by the way: One of the main problems the original Hulu created was an increased tension between its owners and cable companies like Comcast (CMCSA), which fretted that Hulu was providing consumers with a reason to cut their cable subscriptions. Since FX, Bravo et al are getting paid by Comcast and the like for access to their shows, it will be tricky for Hulu to bundle those into its own service as well.

Is that a deal killer? I’ve found that with music subscription services, the absence of a single song I want rankles me in a slightly irrational way: Who cares if I can listen to millions of songs on demand for $9.99 a month? I want to listen to “99 Problems” right now, and I can’t! It’s easy to see Hulu Plus subscribers taking a similar view if they can’t find a favorite show when they want it.

But let’s wait and see what’s there first. Hulu says it has 120 seasons and 2,000 episodes available. Dig through and let me know if any absences are particularly problematic for you.

Press release, for those of you who like that kind of thing:

Hulu Launches Preview of Subscription Service Hulu Plus™

First subscription service to bring current TV programming from top broadcast networks ABC, FOX and NBC to 4 screens–computers, TVs, mobile phones and tablets–in HD Quality

Hulu Plus will complement the free, ad-supported Hulu service allowing consumers to enjoy more wherever, more whenever, than ever

LOS ANGELES—June 29, 2010–Hulu™ today launched a preview of Hulu Plus™, the first ad-supported subscription service to offer full current season runs of hit TV programs from ABC, FOX and NBC across multiple Web-connected devices, in HD, for only $9.99 a month. Now, TV lovers can watch full current seasons of shows such as Glee, Family Guy, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, 30 Rock and The Office and full series runs or multiple back seasons of shows like The X-Files, Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives and Law and Order: SVU on PCs and Macs as well as on Apple’s iPad and iPhone, and select 2010 Samsung Blu-ray players, Blu-ray Home Theater systems, and TVs through Samsung Apps, in up to 720p high-definition resolution. Hulu Plus will also be coming soon to the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system.

“We’re thrilled to begin sharing this revolutionary new service with subscribers” said Jason Kilar, Hulu CEO. “Hulu Plus is the first subscription service that offers consumers a wide array of today’s top current TV series on all four screens, in HD. With Hulu Plus, now your favorite TV shows love you back.”

View the Hulu Plus demo video for an overview of the full service.

More Content–Over 100 Content Providers, Hundreds of Shows, Thousands of Episodes
Hulu Plus builds on the extensive content offering of the ad-supported, free Hulu service and brings together one of the deepest offerings of TV shows, both current and classic, to subscribers in the U.S. Every episode of more than 45 current hit programs from ABC, FOX and NBC will be available all season long, from Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy to Glee and Family Guy to The Office and 30 Rock. In addition, TV lovers will be able to enjoy full series runs and numerous back seasons of dozens of classic shows like The X-Files, Law and Order: SVU, Arrested Development, Saturday Night Live, Miami Vice, Ugly Betty, Quantum Leap, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell and Ally McBeal.

The Hulu Plus library aggregates content from more than 100 providers across broadcast networks, major studios and independent content creators. For content owners, Hulu Plus offers a compelling new way to distribute and monetize their programs across multiple screens.

For a full list of content providers and shows available, view the Hulu Plus Content page.

Access Anywhere–Across Four Screens on Multiple Devices
Subscribers to Hulu Plus will be able to watch their favorite shows not only on their PCs and Macs but also on select mobile phones, televisions (through gaming consoles and other boxes connected to the TV, or directly through Internet-connected TVs), Blu-ray players, and tablets, including Apple’s iPad and iPhone. Hulu’s preview launch device partners include the Apple iPad, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and third-generation iPod Touch; select Samsung connected TVs, Blu-ray players, and Blu-ray home theater systems; and PS3 coming soon.

In the coming months, Hulu Plus will also be available on additional Sony Electronics Internet-connected entertainment devices including select BRAVIA® TVs and Blu-ray Disc™ players, as well as select TVs and Blu-ray players from VIZIO. In early 2011, Hulu Plus will launch on the Xbox 360. Hulu will continue to evaluate opportunities to extend Hulu Plus to other hardware devices and platforms as well.

For more information on supported devices and system requirements for Hulu Plus, please refer to the
Hulu Plus Device Partner page.

High Quality Viewing Experience–Streaming in HD
Hulu continues to push the quality of the online video viewing experience forward. Hulu Plus will bring many programs to users in 720p high definition to take advantage of the high-resolution screens on HD-capable devices. On select devices, adaptive bitrate streaming will ensure the highest quality video streams for the viewer’s bandwidth.

Advertising
Hulu Plus enables Hulu, for the first time, to extend its innovative and targeted ad platform across four screens, reaching Internet-connected users wherever they are. For the preview launch of Hulu Plus, Hulu is partnering with leading marketers Nissan and Bud Light who are expanding their reach with Hulu’s engaged and connected audience. Hulu expects to include additional advertisers for the broad consumer launch of Hulu Plus.

Pricing & Availability
Hulu Plus is available to U.S. consumers for $9.99 per month. Hulu Plus is currently available as a preview during which subscriptions are offered by invitation only to enable Hulu to ensure the highest quality experience for each user and to responsibly scale the service over time. To request an invite, visit www.hulu.com/plus.

Even without an invite, during this preview period consumers are welcome to download a free Hulu Plus application to the iPad, iPhone 3GS and 4, and third-generation iPod Touch, and other supported devices to test the experience with a limited selection of free episodes and clips. Hulu Plus is expected to be made widely available to the public in the coming months.


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— Parker Higgins via Twitter