NBC and Fox’s joint online video venture Hulu has launched today. The site will only be available to a few thousand beta testers initially, but its content will be rolled out to Hulu’s distribution partners.

Hulu has been mentioned as a potential YouTube killer but does not allow users to upload videos and will focus on ‘professionally-produced’ content.

The line-up so far is impressive – episodes of 90 TV shows will be avaiable through the site, including The Simpsons, 24, and The Office. Hulu will also show movies free of charge.

It will also be a distibution network, providing content to five partners - AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Comcast and MySpace.  

Advertising

The site is free to use, and will be supported by advertising. Nissan, Toyota and Intel are among the brands already advertising via the site.

Formats will include banners alongside the video player, overlays which can be watched while the video is paused for shorter clips, while longer TV shows and movies will feature commercial breaks.

There is always the risk of putting users off with too much advertising in online videos, something ITV’s recently launched broadband catch up service suffers from, but Hulu intends to show fewer ads than on the equivalent shows on TV.

It intends to show roughly two minutes of ads for every half hour of viewing, which is less than TV, but perhaps more than online video viewers will be happy with, though much will depend on the type of ads, and whether they can be skipped.

The site was valued at £1bn before launch, based on an investment of $100m (£49.5m) from Providence Equity Partners in return for 10% of the company.

Hulu content can be viewed through AOL at the moment, and the main site is expected to launch fully in the next three months.

Related stories:

Google launches in-video ads on YouTube