The Walt Disney Company announced today that its ABC television network will join NBC Universal and News Corp. as an equity owner of the ad-supported online video site Hulu — and getting its content included on the fast-growing site.
With the deal, Hulu now will offer full-length episodes of ABC primetime shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Ugly Betty,” and more, as well as popular titles from the Walt Disney Movie Studio library.
“From our landmark iTunes deal to our pioneering decision to stream ad-supported shows on our ABC.com player, Disney has sought to meet the constantly evolving viewing habits of our consumers, and today’s Hulu announcement is the next important step in that ongoing journey,” Disney President and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement. “Disney and Hulu share a focus on delivering the highest-quality entertainment experience and we look forward to working with Hulu to build value for our consumers, our brands and our shareholders.”
The news comes as an even stronger validation for Hulu, which continues expanding and mounting a growing challenge to market leader YouTube, despite some recent challenges.
“We’re honored to welcome the Disney team in our mission to help people find and enjoy the world’s premium content, when, where and how they want it,” Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement. “With the addition of shows like ‘Lost,’ ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and many more to Hulu, we continue to aspire to deliver a service that users, advertisers and content owners unabashedly love.”
The advertiser-supported site, launched in March 2008, offers full-length television episodes and feature films from co-founders NBC Universal and Fox as well as cable networks Comedy Central, USA, Bravo FX, Sundance, E!, G4, Versus and Oxygen. Shows typically appear on the site the day after their primetime premiere.
Hulu’s also been on a tear of late, continuing to climb in viewership stats. Viewers watched 380 million videos in March, according to Web traffic researcher comScore, accounting for 2.6 percent of all Web video,and 4.9 percent of all minutes spent watching online video.
comScore also said Hulu attracted about 41.5 million viewers last month, who watched an average of nine videos while on the site.
“Hulu has shown that if you make quality content available on the Web and combine it with an unbeatable user experience, viewers will come, and so will advertisers,” Jeff Zucker, president and CEO, NBC Universal, said in a statement. “The addition of some of the best content Disney/ABC has to offer will only enhance Hulu’s standing as a top site for high-quality video entertainment.”
Disney is also working with Hulu’s rival YouTube. Last month, YouTube partnered with Disney Media Networks to show mini-episodes from ESPN and the Disney/ABC Television Group on ad-supported channels at the Google-owned (NASDAQ: GOOG) video portal. That move was part of YouTube’s new strategy — validating itself as a showcase for professional, premium content in an effort to start making money.