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%), twenty-first Century Fox (through Fox Entertainment Group) (30%), Comcast (through NBCUniversal) (30%), and as of 10 August 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 additional content partners. It was previously divided into free and paid tiers, with the free service limited in the amount of content accessible by users and is accessible via PC only, and a paid service with a larger library of content and access 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!, Yahoo! View, and additionally announced that it intends to launch a service with live television programming a few time in 2017.

Name

The name Hulu comes from two Mandarin Chinese words, húlú (葫芦/葫蘆), "calabash; bottle gourd", and hùlù (互录/互錄), "interactive recording". The company blog explains:

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.

History

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 throughout 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 after 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 August 16, 2010, a report revealed that Hulu was planning an Initial Public Offering (IPO) which could value the company at more than $2 billion.

On June 21, 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that an "unsolicited offer" caused Hulu to start "weighing whether to sell itself." On October 13, 2011 however, Hulu and its owners announced that they wouldn't 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.

In May 2016, Hulu announced that it planned to start offering an over-the-top IPTV service with "live programming from broadcast and cable brands" a few time in 2017.

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.

Content partners

Following the start of its service, Hulu signed deals with several new content providers making additional material available to consumers.

On April 30, 2009, The Walt Disney Company announced that it would join the venture, purchasing a 27 percent stake in Hulu.

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're viewable.

On October 28, 2011, Hulu announced that they had inked a five-year deal with The CW, giving the streaming site access to next-day content from five of the six major networks.

On September 18, 2013, Hulu announced a multi-year deal with the BBC that will deliver 2,000 episodes from 144 different titles in the first 12 months.

In 2015, Hulu began offering content from Showtime for an additional $8.99/month, still cheaper than Showtime's own streaming service. CBS remains the only major network not offered on Hulu notwithstanding offering CBS-owned Showtime and CBS co-owned The CW.

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.

Hulu subscription service

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 a few content by 2010. Carey's comment jibes with additional 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 additionally contains advertising. Notwithstanding 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 additionally 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.

Viewership

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.

Programming

Content partners

Hulu distributes video on its own website and syndicates its hosting to additional sites, and allows users to embed Hulu clips on their websites. In addition to NBC, ABC and Fox programmes and movies, Hulu carries shows from networks such as A&E, Big Ten Network, Bravo, E!, Fox Sports 2, FX, G4, Ion Television, 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 additionally 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 programmes had been airing on Hulu after late 2008. A spokesman for Viacom noted that "in the current economic model, there isn't 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 might go back." In February 2011, both shows were made available for streaming on Hulu again.

Original content

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 programme 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 programmes 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 programmes 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.

South Park

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 the Hulu video and advertising experience. Along with this, the domain name changed from "southparkstudios.com" to "southpark.cc.com". Previously, the show had been removed from Netflix, along with additional titles. The new site launch caused a few technical issues, but everything was fixed and fans are able to watch full, uncensored episodes and clips again on southpark.cc.com and Hulu. 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 have their own localised versions of South Park sites – fans in these countries can continue to watch episodes and interact with additional fans exactly as before.

It was announced that beginning in September 2014, following the premiere of the eighteenth 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.

AT&T

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.

Neon Alley

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.

It should be noted that Hulu is known for streaming anime titles from a large number of distributors, including Funimation, TMS Entertainment, and Bandai Visual, in addition to Viz Media.

Networks

Producers and distributors

International platforms

Hulu Exclusive

Availability

As of June 2015, access to Hulu isn't available internationally outside of the United States and Japan.

Nippon TV acquisition of Hulu Japan service

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.

International Expansion

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 can 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.

Absence in Canadian market

Hulu is unable to launch in Canada due to the relative 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 a large number of 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 additional streaming systems, including a Canadian version of Netflix, Shomi, CraveTV and Crackle, but with both Shomi and CraveTV streaming a few programming from inaccessible-to-Canadian-viewers platforms such as Hulu and Amazon.