Hulu closes in on 9 million paid subscribers

The television-streaming site's members are up 50 percent since last year, CEO Mike Hopkins said, with each subscriber watching more video on average.

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Hulu's $7.99-a-month subscription service gives members earlier access to some full episodes and lets them watch on mobile devices. Joan E. Solsman/CNET

NEW YORK -- More people are paying Hulu so that they can watch more TV online.

Paid subscribers to the television-streaming service increased 50 percent to nearly 9 million in the last year, Chief Executive Mike Hopkins said here Wednesday.

"2015 is the year Hulu will break out," Hopkins said.

By comparison, Netflix just surpassed 40 million subscribers in the US, where Hulu operates. Netflix has nearly 60 million paying subscribers globally.

As more consumers shift to watching television online, Hulu straddles the old world and the new. Owned by traditional TV networks but a fully online venture, Hulu has a dual personality that has complicated its growth compared to rivals like Netflix. Rather than focusing purely on what online video watchers want, it balances consumer trends with the the needs of traditional TV programmers -- two forces sometimes at odds with each other.

At a flashy presentation here for advertisers and brands, Hopkins rattled off updates on Hulu's audience: Total streams of video were up 77 percent in the first 90 days of the year, and viewers streamed more than 700 million hours, an 83 percent jump from the previous year.

That means the average Hulu subscriber is watching more content -- 30 percent more this year versus last year.

The company also announced it reached a deal with AMC on Wednesday morning for content from shows that the cable channel makes out of its own studio. That means the streaming site will have "The Walking Dead" spinoff series "Fear the Walking Dead" -- but not episodes of the hit main show itself.

Hulu offers a free option with ads, as well as a paid service for $7.99 a month -- still with ads. The paid version allows members to get many full episodes from traditional television the day after they air. Hulu is owned by traditional TV giants Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast, through its NBC Universal arm. By striking deals with HBO Now and Hulu, Cablevision is still working with traditional TV programmers.

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