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Hulu lands new partners as usage rises

Hulu, the online video Web site owned by News Corp. and NBC Universal, said on Tuesday its service will be distributed on seven new sites, making its archive of popular television shows more widely available.
/ Source: Reuters

Hulu, the online video Web site owned by News Corp. and NBC Universal, said on Tuesday its service will be distributed on seven new sites, making its archive of popular television shows more widely available.

The deals come as usage on Hulu and its partner sites exceeded all U.S. television network sites, including those owned by its founders in its first month since launching publicly, the company said, citing Nielsen's VideoCensus data.

Hulu videos will now be distributed on entertainment and social network sites TV.com, TVGuide.com, BuddyTV.com, Flixster.com, MyYearbook.com, Break.com and Zap2it.com, said Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar alongside the Reuters Global Technology Media and Telecoms Summit.

Hulu, which hosts free episodes of such current shows as "The Simpsons," and "The Office" as well as past hits like "WKRP In Cincinnati," is showing early signs of success in a market dominated by Google YouTube.

"While it is extremely early in terms of Hulu's history of serving users, we're quite excited to see such positive trends in Hulu's growth and viewership," Kilar said ahead of his presentation at the summit in New York.

In April, users watched 63.2 million videos on Hulu and its partners' sites and its viewers spent on average viewing 129.3 minutes per month, beating nearest rival Walt Disney's ABC.com, where users watched 60.8 million videos with viewers spending an average of 57.3 minutes, according to Nielsen.

Hulu's figures remain a far cry from those of YouTube, where users watched more than 4 billion videos in the same period. Its viewers spent about 90 minutes per month watching.

But Hulu's statistics have helped the site attract big advertisers including McDonald's, Bank of America and Blackberry-maker Research In Motion.

Hulu was widely criticized for arriving well after YouTube established itself as the preeminent source of online videos and years after ABC.com first started offering the network's top shows for free. Hulu was hyped by bloggers and analysts as a "YouTube-killer," a moniker that Hulu has repeatedly denied.

But technology-savvy users and blogs gave Hulu high marks for its cleanly designed site and deep trove of full-length shows.

Its launch has also inspired debate on the value of homemade videos and videos made outside of established television studios, such as those hosted on France's Dailymotion and YouTube, compared with the professional shows hosted on Hulu and other network-owned sites.

Martin Rogard, France country manager for Dailymotion, said he saw Hulu as a less attractive option for investors and users than his own site, which is primarily a source of home videos and clips of professionally produced content.

"I don't see our users as willing to necessarily go after what they can see on TV. Because they can see it on TV," Rogard said at the Reuters Technology summit in Paris on Monday. "I don't really think the new generation and a lot of people go to Dailymotion to see what has been shown on TV."

Hulu is one of the few places where viewers can easily find a library of recently broadcast and archived television shows.

"They should be proud and they are number one relative to its major partners," Forrester analyst James McQuivey said.

However, the analyst said he had expected as many as 80 million to 100 million videos to be viewed on Hulu by now given its line-up of partners with big Internet portals Time Warner's AOL, Comcast, Yahoo, News Corp.'s MySpace and Microsoft's MSN.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Hulu's partners have yet to figure out how best to attract more usage, McQuivey said, pointing out that it has been somewhat difficult to find Hulu videos easily on AOL.com.

"It suggests that the partners have a little more work to do to capture their fair share of the audience," he said, referring to Hulu's content partners.