Online video site Hulu, under pressure from its media company parents to generate a bigger profit, launched a subscription service Tuesday with complete access to back episodes of popular television shows.
For $9.99 a month, subscribers can get the entire current season of Glee, The Office, House and other shows from broadcasters ABC, Fox and NBC, as well as all the past seasons of several series. Paying subscribers can also watch shows in high definition - at up to 720p, compared with 480p for free. The popular, ad-supported website will continue to have a few recent episodes for free online.
In a surprise move, however, paying subscribers will get the same number of ads as users of the free website.
Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar said keeping ads was necessary to help keep the price low.
"Certainly there was an opportunity for us to offer an ad-free service at a higher price," Kilar told the AP. "But we heard loud and clear from consumers that they would prefer to have a lower price in a way that advertising helps lower the cost."
The new site is initially available by invitation only on computers and through special applications designed for Apple Inc.'s iPad and iPhones and certain Samsung Blu-ray players and TVs - the first time Hulu is available off desktop and laptop computers.