Hulu Launches Beta Site

NEW YORK Hulu, the long-awaited online video joint venture from NBC Universal and News Corp., opened in beta Monday.

Along with the launch, the company announced new partnerships with Sony Pictures Television and MGM. From Sony, Hulu will stream more than 40 TV shows and from MGM, the service will make TV programming and movies available.

The company also said that Providence Equity Partners would provide $100 million in funding to Hulu. This investment was first reported in August.

At launch, Hulu features content from NBC and News Corp.’s Fox and 15 cable networks, including Bravo, E!, FX and USA. The site also features programming from Reveille, Smithsonian Networks and World Wrestling Entertainment and full-length movies from Sony, Fox, Universal and MGM.

Included in this package are current prime-time shows such as 24 and The Office, recent programs that are now off the air including Arrested Development and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, older shows such as The A-Team and Dragnet and full-length movies such as Sideways and The Blues Brothers.

In addition to the stand-alone site, Hulu will have distribution channels on Time Warner’s AOL, News Corp.’s MySpace, Yahoo!, MSN and Comcast.

Hulu was first announced in March and was originally seen as a rival to Google’s YouTube, which had come under scrutiny for copyright infringement. As the site materialized, though, it became clear that Hulu, instead, would only focus on premium content, a point of differentiation from YouTube, which hosts many user-generated clips.

Jason Kilar, a former Amazon executive, was named CEO of the joint venture in July.