updated 10:20 am EDT, Mon October 29, 2007
Hulu Private Beta
NBC-Universal and News Corp today began the private beta of Hulu, their joint venture into web-based movies and TV. The service represents a break from both paid download stores and most free web-based sites by replicating the conventional TV model online: new ads are inserted in the place of the spots that would otherwise be left to traditional TV stations for both movies and TV shows. Hulu is also independent of any one provider, the founding companies say. While Fox shows like The Simpsons and NBC's The Office will be available, MGM and Sony have also promised their own movie and TV content.
In addition to free access to movies, the service should also be one of the first to explicitly allow users to republish videos outside of the main portal. Similar to Revver, YouTube, and similar sites, users will have full permission to embed entire clips and can include a specific segment both on the web or in an e-mail link. This should help Hulu avoid the legal troubles encountered by Google, whose YouTube site has had to employ an automatic content filter to avoid future copyright disputes. Viacom sued Google earlier this year, alleging that it left YouTube open knowing it would profit from bootlegs of content from Comedy Central and other channels without sharing the revenue with legitimate owners.
The service is limited to a private beta with sign-ups beginning today and a finished, publicly accessible version of Hulu launching within a few months depending on the development time.
NBC's partnership in Hulu and aggressive push to launch the site is widely perceived in part as retaliation against Apple for the latter's refusal to adopt a more variable pricing structure on iTunes that would allow for bundles. Despite its partnership with NBC for the new website, News Corp has pledged to remain with iTunes and currently finds the existing $2 per-episode price strategy acceptable.