Hulu Ends Free Streaming Service

Hulu inks deal with Yahoo to provide free, ad-supported episodes of TV shows

Hulu is moving to an all-subscription model, eliminating the ad-supported service that has let users watch thousands of TV episodes in the nine years since it first launched.

At the same time, Hulu has expanded its distribution deal with Yahoo, which is launching Yahoo View, a new ad-supported TV-streaming site with the five most recent episodes of shows from ABC, NBC and Fox — eight days after original air date — as well as other network shows, day-after clips, and full seasons of anime and Korean drama series. The free Hulu service will be phased out over the next few weeks.

The moves come less than a week after Time Warner announced that it is paying $583 million to take a 10% stake in Hulu, joining existing owners Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast.

“For the past couple years, we’ve been focused on building a subscription service that provides the deepest, most personalized content experience possible to our viewers,” Hulu senior VP and head of experience Ben Smith said in a statement. “As we have continued to enhance that offering with new originals, exclusive acquisitions, and movies, the free service became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy.”

Hulu is focusing on subscriptions as it looks to ratchet up its competition with Netflix and Amazon Prime, its two key SVOD rivals. Hulu offers two subscription plans: $7.99 per month with commercials, and $11.99 per month without any ads.

In addition, Hulu is gearing up to launch a live-TV service sometime in 2017, which will feature linear channels from its parent companies including local TV stations. The company hasn’t revealed details on pricing and packaging of that service.

Meanwhile, Yahoo is the midst of being acquired by Verizon in a $4.8 billion deal, which is expected to close by the end of 2016 or in the first quarter of 2017. The Hulu content promises to be a draw for Yahoo, especially with Hulu ending its own free service.

Yahoo is now Hulu’s “preferred partner” for all of the episodes from the free service. Comcast’s Xfinity also offers all of Hulu’s free content; other sites that carry free episodes from Hulu include New York magazine’s Vulture.com and Time Inc.’s People.com.

“Video is an important part of Yahoo’s strategy and we’re committed to delivering the best digital video content to our users. To date, we’ve streamed amazing experiences across sports, finance, and news,” said Phil Lynch, VP and head of media partnerships for Yahoo. “This partnership with Hulu is a natural extension of that strategy, bringing the best of TV and entertainment content to our lifestyle vertical.”

Yahoo’s new site, at view.yahoo.com, is now available in the U.S. Mobile web and mobile apps will be coming soon.

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