Hulu, Now With 6 Million Subscribers, Will Make Some TV Episodes Free On Mobile

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Today at Hulu’s upfronts, the company announced a major change for its business with the reveal that it would begin streaming a selection of ad-supported TV episodes for free on mobile devices beginning this summer. Until now, viewers have only been able to watch Hulu’s free service on the desktop, while its Hulu Plus mobile offering remained a premium experience.

The company’s free mobile offerings had changed somewhat last October, when Hulu announced its first free mobile videos. But at the time, those freebies were just clips, and were only available in the browser, not Hulu Plus.

In addition, Hulu promises a new Hulu Plus iPhone app this summer, presumably in tandem with the release of the new, free shows.

Today, the network, which last December reported that roughly 50 percent of its then 5 million Hulu Plus subscribers where streaming exclusively on mobile devices, says it has now grown that subscriber base to 6 million. Around the same time, CEO Mike Hopkins had also said that Hulu would reach $1 billion in revenue in 2013, up from $695 million the year prior.

With today’s announcement, Hopkins again offers a number of updates on Hulu’s growth, including that it worked with over 1,650 advertisers since its 2008 launch. Many of these came on last year when the company reported it reached over 1,000, up 15 percent from 2012. Users, says the CEO, are highly engaged, staying on the service for nearly 50 minutes per session.

Advertisers are now being offered three new ad units in conjunction with the rollout of the free TV episodes: an “in-stream” purchase unit with Pizza Hut as the initial customer, letting customers order pizza directly without leaving Hulu; cross platform interactive ads, which work on mobile and living room (which Corona Extra is partnering on); and the Hulu 360 Ad, powered by Immersive Media, which offers ads tailored to the device the viewer is currently using.

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comScore will also begin measuring Hulu users at an individual viewer level across platforms, including living room devices, the company notes.

Hulu’s announcement also detailed, of course, its content, including its re-upping of “Deadbeat” for a second season, premiere dates for second seasons of “The Awesomes,” “Quick Draw” and “East Los High,” and the return of “Doozers,” Hulu’s first original show for kids.

Hulu now says it will more than triple its content marketing spend for Hulu Originals over 2014.