Hulu Going Live Wednesday, Adds Content Partners

NBC Universal-News Corp. Broadband-Video Site Has Been in Private Beta Since October, Semi-Private Beta Since Last Month

Hulu, the broadband-video site developed by NBC Universal and News Corp., will open to the general public Wednesday. Hulu had been in a private beta since October and a semi-private beta since last month.

In addition, Hulu announced deals to bring content from Warner Bros. Television Group, Lionsgate, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League to the service.

Hulu will make feature films from its content partners available, including The 40 Year Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, Napoleon Dynamite and the Die Hard trilogy.

For TV shows, brief 15- to 30-second ads are inserted where a commercial break would be traditionally located. Hulu did not specify how advertising would be delivered during feature films.

According to Hulu, more than 5 million viewers streamed video on the site or on its distribution network -- which includes AOL, MySpace and Yahoo -- in the past 30 days.  More than 50,000 titles have been embedded in more than 6,000 Web sites. While those are excellent numbers for a semi-private beta service, online video leader YouTube had an estimated 79 million users in December, according to tracking company ComScore.

All told, the site will offer approximately 250 TV shows and 100 films, with more added as content providers sign on. Hulu’s inventory has quadrupled since it launched in beta five months ago.

The site is continuing to develop new advertising models to fit with what its advertisers are looking for, and it said it has renewed many of its charter advertising deals.

Hulu, under the leadership of CEO Jason Kilar, has tried to bring together as many content partners as possible, with the goal of becoming a one-stop shop for all Web video.

Web-exclusive videos such as The Onion News Network and CNET Video are next to slick professional productions from NBC and E! Entertainment Television. In addition to full episodes of TV shows and feature-length films, highlight packages from the NHL, the NBA, horse racing and World Wrestling Entertainment round out the service.

While NBC and Fox were easy gets, considering their partnership in the site, Disney-ABC and CBS are still holding off on signing on.

Even without some major partners, Hulu has found other ways to try to establish itself as a one-stop shop for professionally produced Web video: Searching Hulu’s site for “David Letterman” will return links to clips from his show -- on CBS’ own site.