Hulu 'Reinventing' TV; adds Stewart, Colbert to Lineup

Here's good news for Hulu fans--and potentially more bad news for cable and satellite TV providers. A new content agreement between Viacom and Hulu is bringing The Daily Show and The Colbert Report --two of cable network Comedy Central's most popular shows--back to the free online video service. The shows will also run on Hulu Plus, the premium version of Hulu that offers full seasons of current and classic TV shows for $8 a month.

Colbert and Daily Show episodes will be available on Hulu and Hulu Plus the morning after they first air, according to Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, who made the announcement in a Wednesday blog post. Kilar didn't say what Hulu is paying Viacom for the programs, but All Things Digital's Peter Kafka reports the price tag is at least $40 million.

As part of the deal, Hulu Plus will add more than 2,000 episodes of Viacom shows, including Chappelle's Show, The Hills, and Reno 911. Episodes of Jersey Shore, Teen Mom 2, and Tosh.0 will be available on Hulu Plus 21 days after their on-air premiere.

Call Them Crazy

Video-streaming services like Hulu and Netflix could play a major role in the future of television, particularly as the industry migrates to an online business model.

Hulu is in the "business of re-inventing television," writes Kilar. "A number of you that are reading this might be thinking that we'd have to be crazy to think that our small team can actually re-invent television and compete effectively against a landscape of distribution giants like cable companies, satellite companies, and huge online companies. We are crazy."

Traditional TV has too many ads, says Kilar--an argument that few consumers would challenge. He adds that aside from sports and other live-event programs (e.g., awards shows), viewers are increasingly bypassing commercials by recording programs on DVRs.

Shows streamed by Hulu and Hulu Plus do include commercials, but far fewer than those shown on broadcast and cable networks.

Kilar's comments are intriguing in that they're bound the rankle the very entertainment industry behemoths--including Disney, News Corp., and Disney--that gave birth to Hulu in March 2007.

"For over 60 years, video advertising could only be bought via a TV show's projected audience, which served as a blunt proxy for a certain target audience," writes Kilar. "The result has been many wasted impressions and an often irrelevant experience for consumers. In the near future, advertisers will demand the ability to target their messages to people rather than targeting their messages to TV shows as proxies for people."

Yes...but didn't the TV networks want it that way? Murkiness worked in their favor--allowing them to charge advertisers high fees based on perceived viewership--but now the game is changing.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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