Hulu™ is a web site launched in early 2008 that is built to stream video to users. Unlike many previous streaming video sites, which made illegal use of commercial properties from television and video, Hulu™ does everything entirely legally, appropriately licensing content from the copyright holders. It funds itself via advertising, which runs both in sidebars on the site and also in short clips either at the beginning of the video or at regular intervals during the viewing.
The two owners of the site are Fox Entertainment Group and NBC Universal, two of the largest television networks. This partnership enables Hulu™ to distribute a large amount of popular programming, which helped it quickly gain critical mass and entice other providers to join it as well. Currently Hulu™ features shows and clips from USA, FX, SPEED, E!, Oxygen, Bravo, PBS, G4, and Comedy Central, among others. The bulk of popular shows on Hulu™, however, come from either Fox or NBC.
A number of older shows have begun to see release on Hulu™ as well, including old sitcoms from the 1960s and 1970s. Licensing deals have allowed Hulu™ to get full seasons of these shows for high-quality distribution, making the site immediately popular among older fans or fans of retro television. At the same time, Hulu™ keeps enough current shows running to make it the obvious destination for contemporary television viewers as well.
The model of Hulu™ for current shows tends to be that they will show the current five episodes of that show, in order not to interfere too heavily with DVD sales or reruns. This is ideal for people who do not have a television and wish to keep current with shows, or for those who’ve missed the most recent episode or two of their favorite show. While there is a great deal of room for more depth to be added to archives of shows Hulu™ carries, the fact that it is owned and operated by two major networks limits the amount of competition it is willing to give to traditional broadcasts, which in turn helps it attract and retain other networks.
For advertising, Hulu™ is predominantly of a modified commercial model. At periodic intervals during the show, usually three or four times, a brief fifteen second ad spot plays. This ad spot is generally for the same product or service, and may sometimes simply be the same ad repeated a number of times. Hulu™ also airs many advertisements for non-profit organizations. Occasionally, Hulu™ will offer the user an alternative to this commercial model, where they may opt to watch a slightly longer, generally between one and two minute, mini-video advertisement, or to take the traditional commercial route.
For some shows, generally those that have been retired from the air, Hulu™ will offer the entire archive of the show. "Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip" is a good example of this, with the entire run of the show available online. Other shows may have every past season available, but not the entire current season. Still others may have the entire current season, but none of the past seasons.