Hulu Tops 4 Million Paying Subscribers in First Quarter

Hulu LLC, the online TV service owned by three of the four major TV networks, said it doubled the number of paying subscribers in the past year to more than 4 million.

“Overall, Hulu continues to grow very quickly,” Andy Forssell, the company’s acting chief executive officer, said today in a blog post. “We set new records for revenue, and for the first time ever, Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in a single quarter.”

Unlike rival Netflix Inc., Los Angeles-based Hulu more closely resembles cable networks such as CNN and Discovery Communications, which rely on advertising and subscription fees. Netflix, which doesn’t take ads, had 29.2 million U.S. subscribers at the end of March. Hulu announced the jump, from 2 million paying customers a year earlier, as it began talks with marketers, who are devoting more dollars to online programs.

Sales jumped more than 65 percent to $695 million last year, driven by advertising and subscriptions. Like Netflix and Inc., Netflix has also produced original programming in order to attract audiences. Separately, Hulu announced two new series this year: “Quick Draw” a half-hour comedy set in the American West in 1875, and “East Los High,” a contemporary drama set in an East Los Angeles high school that features an all-Latino cast.

Hulu offers free reruns of television shows and movies, with newer programming and earlier access available on its $8-a-month Hulu Plus. Forssell became acting CEO with the departure last month of Jason Kilar.

The company’s controlling owners, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Walt Disney Co., are weighing whether to sell Hulu or buy each other out. Comcast Corp., the third major investor, is barred from an active role in the company as part of an agreement with U.S. regulators.

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