- Third service option builds on free and $7.99 streaming plans
- Films, commercial-free `Seinfeld' are latest programming deals
Hulu LLC, the streaming video service owned by three of the largest U.S. media companies, will offer advertising-free viewing for $11.99 a month, giving audiences the option of paying an extra $4 to avoid commercials.
The new service is available immediately, Hulu said Wednesday in a statement. The Santa Monica, California-based company, owned by Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox Inc., already offers a free, ad-supported version and a $7.99-a-month option, also with ads, that includes a wider selection of shows.
Hulu said it’s responding to requests from viewers. Competitors Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime service don’t carry commercials. Netflix streaming plans range from $7.99 to $11.99 a month.
“At Hulu, we pride ourselves on listening to our customers and giving them the best possible experience,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Hopkins said in the statement. “Many of our customers have asked us for a commercial free option.”
The TV industry has been trying to protect and increase its advertising revenue ever since the digital video recorder allowed people to skip commercials. Hulu, launched in 2007, was conceived as a way to offer advertising-backed catch-up viewing and archival TV to the growing ranks of Internet users.
The service has evolved as the owners saw Netflix build a global audience of more than 65 million subscribers, with a mix of other people’s programming, original shows and a sleek user interface in an ad-free, on-demand alternative to conventional television.
Hulu’s ad-free service is the company’s latest initiative to build on the almost 9 million paying subscribers it reported in April. The company acquired the rights to stream the hit TV show “Seinfeld” and scored movies from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures under a deal with Epix.
Hulu has also increased its spending on original series and released the comedy “Difficult People” in August. It has since renewed the show for a second season.