Hulu Rolls Out Subscription Service Preview Beginning Today

Hulu, the free web portal that offers ad-supported content from News Corp., NBC Universal and Disney to viewers in the US, has been planning for months to launch a paid subscription version of the service. A preview of the new paid iteration, called Hulu Plus, is being rolled out today.

The LA Times reports that the subscription service will cost $9.99/month, and "offer the full run of current prime-time shows such as Family Guy, Glee, Modern Family, 30 Rock and The Office."Currently, the free version only offers the latest five episodes of shows in the site's roster.

Full past seasons of some shows (Arrested Development, Law & Orders: SVU, The X-Files) will also be offered. No word yet on any particular premium movie content.

But here's the kicker: the Times report describes Hulu Plus as "an ad-supported subscription service." So will shows still be interrupted by ads? If so, Hulu has a fundamental misunderstanding of what consumers want out of a subscription service. Yes, a full episode run, in HD, should be part of the package. But if those shows aren't commercial-free, there's no way I'd pay ten bucks a month.

Hulu's hopeful selling point is probably the range of devices on which the paid service will operate: the iPad, iPhone 3Gs and 4, 3rd-gen iPod Touch (all over WiFi or 3G, which is huge), some internet-connected Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players, and eventually the PlayStation3. More devices, like the Xbox360, will follow next year.

We'll follow up on this as soon as there's information about the presence or lack of commercials in paid subscription presentations. When Peter wrote about the plan for this service a couple months back he noted that there was doubt about whether paid shows would be commercial-free, and I'm very disappointed to be unable to dispel the question at this point.

UPDATE: Gizmodo reports that, yes, shows will still be interrupted by commercials. There goes any interest I had in subscribing.