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Hulu revenue rises sharply

Company to spend $500 million on content this year

Hulu said Thursday it plans to spend about $500 million on content this year as the service shows strong growth in sales and subscribers.

Revenue surged 60% in 2011 to $420 million, outpacing internal predictions and despite an economic downturn in the second half of the year, CEO Jason Kilar announced on the company’s website.

Premium service Hulu Plus “materially exceeded our plan” with more than 1.5 million subscribers currently and growing, he wrote. He said the company is seeing twice the number of subscribers signing up for the service each day compared with the same time last year and expects subscription fees to account for more than half of overall business later this year.

In 2011, Hulu expanded the content available to customers by 40% while Hulu Plus’ offerings jumped 105%. Hulu Plus is the only online video subscription service that offers current-season content from five of the six largest U.S. broadcast networks, Kilar said, with shows from the CW and Univision added this past quarter. Series picked up last year include “Grimm,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Revenge,” “Terra Nova,” “Up All Night,” “New Girl,” “Una Familia Con Suerte,” “The Secret Circle,” “Hart of Dixie,” “Ringer” and “Community.”

Founded in 2007, Hulu recently launched in Japan. It’s owned by News Corp., Walt Disney, Comcast and Providence Equity.

Kilar said Hulu’s growth stems in part from the dual revenue stream with Hulu Plus that lets the company compensate content owners some 50% more in content licensing fees per subscriber compared with “other similarly priced online subscription services.”