Television networks NBC and Fox are set to launch an online video site that hosts programming from various entertainment companies in a bid to seize viewers from Google’s YouTube.
A test version of the site, Hulu.com, went live yesterday, with plans to premiere a final version in a few months, company officials said.
The site, developed by News Corp and NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric, offers free viewing of full-length films and TV episodes, supported by advertising.
Hulu.com will host programming from the two networks, as well as TV shows and films from Sony and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
‘Consumers identify with shows and films,’ rather than networks, Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar said. ‘When you aggregate great content together, it makes things easier for the user.’
Hulu’s debut comes amid tensions between entertainment companies and popular online video sites, such as YouTube, where unauthorised clips from shows appear.
Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, MTV, VH1 and many other cable channels, is suing YouTube for £0.5 billion, claiming massive copyright infringement of clips from popular US shows. YouTube has said it follows copyright laws by removing protected video upon request.
Hulu will legally offer hundreds of episodes of current shows such as Fox’s The Simpsons, as well as older shows.
Its movie offerings will consist of films that have already been edited for television broadcast, which will contain short ads online in the places where they would appear on TV.
The shows will be available at Hulu.com, as well as on distribution partner Web sites such as AOL, MSN, MySpace, Yahoo and Comcast.
It will also provide viewers with tools that let them embed full episodes on their own blogs, websites or personal profile pages. Users would also be able to select short clips from shows and email a link to the content to friends.
The services give web users unprecedented flexibility to legally republish copyright content, observers said.
‘The technology they’ve put together on this short notice is not only adequate, it’s also better than most of what else is out there,’ said James McQuivey, a US TV and media technology analyst.
‘I think they have moved a couple of steps forward compared to their competitors in the industry.’
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