Hulu, the online TV and film portal, has finally rolled out a subscription service, according to a note posted to the site on Tuesday.
For $9.99 a month, subscribers of Hulu Plus get access to a full season's worth of their favorite TV shows--and even past seasons in some cases--and "not just a handful of trailing episodes" that the free-version of Hulu offers, according to CEO Jason Kilar, who wrote the note.
Hulu Plus marks the first time the service has charged for content and it's arrival has been long anticipated. Supported by Disney, NBC Universal, and News Corp., some of Hulu's backers, especially News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, have been pushing for a paid service for over a year. The word out of Hollywood for a long time is that advertising just doesn't provide the kind of return that the studios and networks are accustomed to generating. Apparently, when it comes to premium TV shows, the ad-supported model works for television but not for the Web.
A monthly service fee may not sit well with some Hulu fans. While the free Hulu service is still available, Internet TV fans have grown accustomed to getting content for free. Critics have noted that Hulu was the first service to actually seize market share away from illegal file-sharing sites. They say that throwing up a pay wall may do nothing more than send people back to pirate sites.
But a pay service like the one Hulu proposes could prove attractive to people who don't want to risk violating copyright law and don't mind paying $10 for the ease of watching Internet-distributed video on their TV sets anytime they choose. To some cable subscribers, Hulu Plus could offer an incentive to dump their cable bills. Hulu Plus represents nothing less than the first legal and mainstream Web TV service to offer a significant alternative to cable providers.
Sure, Netflix's streaming service offers the best movie selection but that service doesn't have access to the same breadth of TV shows that Hulu Plus offers. Hulu has also made up ground on Netflix when comparing the number of devices that feature the services.
Hulu Plus will be available initially to those invited and will be accessible on a range of computers, video game consoles, and handsets, including Apple's iPad and iPhone, select Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players, and eventually Sony's PlayStation 3. On Tuesday, Microsoft confirmed that the Xbox 360 will also offer Hulu Plus sometime early next year. Video quality on many shows will be available at 720p.
Another big winner could be Apple, which will offer Hulu Plus on the iPad and iPhone. Owners of these devices can watch such shows as "30 Rock," "The Office," "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," and "House."
CNET's Josh Lowensohn contributed to this story.