Hulu is launching an ad-free version of its streaming service, charging customers an extra $4 a month for the privilege of not having to sit through ads.
The company said today that its "No Commercials" plan will cost about $12 a month, compared with about $8 for the regular "Limited Commercials" version.
As someone who has watched all three seasons of Nashville on Hulu in the past month and a half — and yes, the episodes are an hour long — the option comes as a welcome relief. One episode would typically contain around 10 to 15 ads, and while Hulu Plus sought to tailor commercials to users and deemed the number of ads as "modest," it tended to show the same ad multiple times in one episode, including commercials for its own service.
(Why show an ad for Hulu to a person who's already paying for Hulu? This still torments me.)
Hulu, on its website, says it made the change "in response to feedback from our viewers." It's also banished the term "Hulu Plus," which is what its premium service was previously called.
There are exceptions to the "No Commercials" version of Hulu, however, including apparently all of the Shonda Rhimes shows. The excluded shows are: Grey's Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, Grimm, New Girl, and How To Get Away With Murder.
Hulu says online that it has"not obtained the rights to stream commercial free" versions of those shows. Instead, it will air ads before and after episodes.
"There's a whole set of customers that we saw in the research and in the metrics that aren't interested if we have advertising," Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins told The Wall Street Journal. "The whole intent is to really target a new consumer who has tried us before and churned out because of the advertising or who just hadn't considered us before."
Hulu, a joint venture between 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney and Comcast, said earlier this year that it has 9 million subscribers. A typical Netflix subscription, which doesn't feature commercials, is about $8 a month. Netflix said it has more than 65 million members.
Before this new plan was rolled out, Hulu's website read: "Hulu Plus offers what no other streaming content service on the market today can: current season episodes of popular shows like Glee, South Park, and Modern Family, and full series runs (all episodes from every season) of popular library shows. We have found that by including a modest ad load, we can keep the price for Hulu Plus under eight bucks, while still providing users with access to the most popular current season shows on the devices of their choice."
Updates with information on commercials for excluded shows.