Media giants Fox and NBC Universal launched an advertising-supported online video site on Monday, a move that will pit the entertainment companies in a battle for viewers with Google Inc.-owned YouTube.
Abeta or testversion of Hulu launched on Monday, with a final version of the video sharing site open to the public expected in a few months, the companies said.
The site will draw programming from News Corp.-owned Fox and from NBC, which is owned by General Electric, including hit television shows such as 24, The Simpsons and The Office.
The site will follow an ad-funded business model, serving up commercial notices to site visitors viewing and sharing the videos for free. The service will also begin with 10 feature-length films, with commercial breaks inserted throughout the movies.
Fox and NBC already make some of their programming available for free on their own websites, but Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar said the new site will provide greater reach for advertisers.
"Consumers identify with shows and films," rather than networks, said Kilar. "When you aggregate great content together, it makes things easier for the user."
The site will also host programming from outside companies, such as Sony Corp. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Hulu also has distribution partnerships with websites such as Yahoo, MSN, AOL and News Corp.-owned MySpace, all of which will be able to stream video from the site through a player embedded in a web page.
It will also provide visitors with tools that allow them to embed full episodes on their own blogs, websites or social networking profile pages.
The companies hope that by launching their own service, they will gain greater control over content they own.
The issue of control over content has been a thorny one for popular online video site YouTube.
Viacom Inc., which owns Comedy Central, MTV and VH1, launched a $1-billion US lawsuit against Google for failing to keep shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report from being uploaded to YouTube.