Hulu plans launch in Japan, but 'free' isn't in the plan

On the auction block or not, Hulu isn't sitting still. The online video service yesterday announced on its blog that it would be rolling out a service in Japan this year.

"Since the very beginning of Hulu, we have had our aspirations firmly set on serving audiences around the globe," Johannes Larcher, Hulu's SVP in charge of international wrote. "We are happy to announce that Hulu will be launching in Japan later this year, a move that marks our first international expansion. With the launch of Hulu's Japanese subscription service, for the first time entertainment fans in Japan will have access to a large selection of premium feature films and popular TV shows at any time, on four screens (PCs, TVs, mobile phones and tablets), for one monthly price."

The company said it would release further details, like pricing, when the service launches.

"In Japan, we also see an unfulfilled market need with respect to premium feature film and TV content, and very favorable environmental factors to a service like ours, including extensive broadband penetration, smart phone and other Internet-connected device ubiquity, and strong consumer interest," said Larcher. "We have been able to use what we have learned from Hulu and Hulu Plus, in addition to the insights gleaned from our market research, to design a high value product specifically tailored for Japanese customers. We believe Japan is a vibrant market for premium video content distribution online, and are committed to our Japanese service for the long-term."

Hulu has opened offices in Tokyo, with a dedicated Japanese team designing and running the service.

Like competitor Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), it appears that the Hulu rollout in its first international market will be significantly different than its U.S. version: there's no mention of a free component for Japanese audiences.

When Netflix launched in Canada last September, it shunned its successful DVD-by-mail model in exchange for a pure streaming play.

Hulu in June began shopping itself to potential buyers including Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) and more.

Hulu's joint-owners, News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA), Disney (NYSE: DIS), and Comcast's (Nasdaq:CMCSA) NBC Universal, have promised that the company's new owners will have access to content from them for at least five years.

For more:
- see this L.A. Times article
- see this post

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