Hulu is finally joining competitors Amazon and Netflix in offering ad-free video streaming, albeit at an extra cost to ad-averse subscribers. Starting today, users have three choices to get their Hulu on: The free tier, which has the highest number of commercials, and a very limited selection of the service’s catalog; the $8 per month tier, which offers slightly fewer commercial interruptions, and the full monty of new shows, full series, movies and original content; and now the $12 per month tier, which removes the ads, though, unlike the competition, there are some exceptions.
Those exceptions include a small list of current shows which, due to contractual obligations, will still have small commercial interruptions, including Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, New Girl, Grimm, and How to Get Away with Murder. The shows listed will reportedly have just 15 second ads appearing before each episode. Aside from that, all other content on the site will be commercial free — if you’re willing to pay the price.
“There are clearly people who just are not going to buy Hulu because there are ads,” said Hulu chief executive Mike Hopkins. “We think we can bring them back into the fold with new content and this new choice.” By giving people the option to remove ads through paying a higher price, Hulu is trying to have its cake and eat it too: satisfy new customers, maintain its relationship with advertisers, and make a little more money, all in one fell swoop.
Hulu’s gamble on the high-flying price for its new service is a big one — especially considering the relatively affordable pricing of its main competitors in Netflix and Amazon, each of which run as low as $8 per month, with Netflix offering a deluge of content, and Amazon offering its service free of charge with a Prime membership. However, Hulu’s aggressive hunt for premium content in recent months has added value to their offering.
The service has inked an impressive number of deals with big time content providers of late, including most recently a deal with movie channel Epix, which recently cut ties with Netflix, bringing along with it a host of Lionsgate, MGM, and Paramount titles like Hunger Games Catching Fire, World War Z, Transformers Age of Extinction, and others.
In addition, Hulu threw down a huge bankroll (a reported $180 million) for the coveted Seinfeld catalog in full, to go along with other popular series like Empire, Fargo, and South Park. And of the three big streamers, only Hulu offers episodes from current seasons, which generally show up on the site a day or so after airing on live TV.