Hulu Adds Partners, Launches Private Beta

NBC Universal and News Corp.'s long-awaited video service finally went into private beta on Monday, as the company announced two new partners.

Hulu signed on both Sony Pictures Television and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios to offer their programming beside homegrown NBC and Fox content. The service was made to a small group of testers on Monday as well.

Initially, Hulu will carry about 90 shows, with a mix of both current and classic progams. About 10 films from the various companies are available for viewing including The Breakfast Club and The Blues Brothers.

Several companies have balked at the near stranglehold that Apple has over the industry due to the immense popularity of iTunes. Hulu provides a way for these companies to possibly break that dominance and return some of the power to the content creators themselves.

However, despite the fact that Hulu will be free and ad-supported, many analysts are still skeptical that it will be able to take off. Many networks have decided to provide their programming through their own Web sites, and the service will not have the capability for online viewing in full quality.

At the same time, the company will allow the embedding of shows and movies on the Web, and will syndicate to AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. That move is somewhat surprising considering the industry has generally tried to control distribution in the past.

Initial reviews of Hulu by beta testers have generally been positive. The design of the site has been complemented, as well as the amount of ads, which at two minutes are a quarter of the typical amount of ads in a regular television show. Additionally, its use of Flash makes the service multi-platform.

Some negatives were mentioned, including the lack of a way to jump directly to certain scenes, and the fact that only the past five weeks of programming would be available through the site for current shows.

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