Hulu Reaches Deal With Viacom to Restore ‘Daily Show’

Hulu LLC reached an agreement with Viacom Inc. that restores “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” to the online video service after an 11-month absence and adds other Comedy Central and MTV shows.

Current episodes of “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” will be shown for free on starting Feb. 2, the companies said today in a statement. Programs from Viacom’s pay-TV channels, including MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” will play on the $7.99-a-month Hulu Plus 21 days after they first air.

The agreement provides a boost to Hulu, which lost viewers after Viacom pulled “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” from the service last March. In June, Hulu started testing the premium-priced Hulu Plus to compete with Netflix Inc.’s online and DVD movie-rental service. Hulu Plus cut the price from $9.99 in November, while Netflix has raised prices.

Terms of the agreement with New York-based Viacom, owner of cable channels including MTV and Comedy Central, weren’t disclosed. Availability will vary by program, they said.

Hulu shelved a planned initial public offering, the Wall Street Journal reported in December. The company planned an IPO that may have valued the company at more than $2 billion, Bloomberg News reported in August.

Hulu obtains the bulk of its TV programming from the broadcast divisions of the service’s owners: News Corp.’s Fox and Comcast Corp.’s NBC, the co-founders; and Walt Disney Co.’s ABC. The networks also offer shows on their own websites.

Free Programming

The owners of Hulu and the service’s chief executive officer, Jason Kilar, are debating how much content should be free and how the business should be structured, the Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 27. Fox and ABC are considering pulling some of their free programming, the Journal said.

Bloomberg News reported in June that Hulu was in talks with New York-based media companies Viacom, CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc. to add television shows for Hulu Plus, citing people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Cable networks, including channels belonging to Hulu’s owners, have been slower to make shows available online because they don’t want to upset pay-TV operators that provide the bulk of their revenue.

Viacom, controlled by Sumner Redstone, rose $1.05 to $43.97 today in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Shares of the company, which reports first-quarter results tomorrow, have climbed 11 percent this year.

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