Hulu is pulling the trigger on an ad-free service designed to compete more directly with Netflix, but it comes at a price: $11.99 a month, $4 more than the $7.99 alternative Hulu offers with “limited commercials.”
Current subscribers will maintain their existing subscription, but will have the choice to switch to the commercial-free option at any time for an additional $4 per month. Hulu said that viewers who choose to watch content with limited commercials will continue to see fewer commercials than on scheduled television.
"At Hulu, we pride ourselves on listening to our customers and giving them the best possible experience," said CEO Mike Hopkins. "Many of our customers have asked us for a commercial free option, and so today we are excited to introduce just that… Our customers can now choose to watch with or without commercials.”
Of course, it’s not the first time Hulu has offered viewers a hybrid choice (In fact, they offered one as recently as, um, yesterday.)
In 2010, Hulu launched Hulu Plus, a service that, although it was available only by subscription, also carried advertising, something that just ticked off consumers.
The new service should alleviate that pain point.
Hulu, owned by Disney, Fox and Comcast’s NBCUniversal, has been mired in third place among the Big Three SVOD services, but has become more aggressive about locking up content – it just signed EPIX after Netflix passed on a new deal with the company – and continues to launch original content, as well.
Hulu also signed licensing deals with networks including AMC, FX and Turner, and acquired the exclusive subscription streaming rights to full libraries of hit broadcast and cable shows including Seinfeld, Empire, Fargo, South Park, CSI, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Nashville, Deadliest Catch, The Last Ship and more.
Earlier this year, Hulu also became the only SVOD service to offer the Showtime premium service as an add-on directly to subscribers for an additional $8.99 per month.
The company earlier this year said a it had grown to nearly 9 million U.S. subscribers, an overall 50% growth year over year.
Still, it’s seen less traction than either Netflix or Amazon. Will its new (really) ad-free service change that? Maybe.
Of course the bigger question may be will Netflix offer its own hybrid, adding ads to its existing service and raising the price of an ad-free version.
Not any time soon.
Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn