Hulu Rolls Out Subscription Service: More Episodes, More Devices

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Hulu TV will offer a premium pay-TV service called Hulu PlusNeeding to tap new revenue streams, a lot of media companies are in the unenviable position of trying to convince users to start paying for something they're used to getting for free. As it rolls out its long-expected premium service, online video site Hulu is addressing this problem by expanding its breadth of offerings. It's hoping its customers would rather be able to access more shows across more platforms, even if it means opening up their wallets.

The new service, called Hulu Plus, will cost $9.99 a month. For now, it's being offered on an invitation-only basis, which was the same way Hulu, then a partnership of News Corp. (NWS) and NBC Universal, debuted three years ago. (Disney (DIS) has since become a partner as well.)

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In return for that fee, Hulu Plus subscribers will, for starters, have access to full seasons of current shows instead of the previous five or so episodes usually available now. That change could help new shows amass audiences faster by allowing curious viewers to catch up on episodes they missed as a season is in progress rather than waiting for it to come out on DVD or buying episodes individually on iTunes. "It's a treasure chest in the cloud for TV lovers," writes Hulu CEO Jason Kilar in a blog post announcing the rollout.

But the even bigger change is that Hulu Plus subscribers will be able to watch video not only on their computers, but also on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches -- and even on their television sets, provided they have the proper model of Samsung TV or Blu-Ray player. These are just the first devices to come with Hulu Plus installed, but more are on the way, starting with the Playstation 3, says Kilar.

What Hulu Plus subscribers won't get is commercial-free programming. Even with a price tag of $120 a year, which may not seem especially cheap to viewers who are used to being able to watch for free, Kilar says advertiser support is what allows Hulu to keep the price of the premium service as low as it is.
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