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Web TV: Hulu's private beta goes live

NBC and News Corp.'s Internet video site launches its private beta with almost 100 different movies and TV series.

NBC and News Corp.'s new Internet video site Hulu is finally seeing the light of day. On Monday, Hulu finally launched the private beta of its site, which includes almost 100 different TV series and movies. After a number of delays, Hulu has its site out the door in October, as promised.

Hulu is a Web platform for viewing and sharing TV shows, movies, and clips. The programming selection (via NewTeeVee PDF) for Hulu on launch is pretty impressive. Content providers include Fox, NBC, E, Bravo, FX, SciFi, USA, and Universal. Hopefully, we will start to see some more TV networks and movie studios jump on this, because I'll admit that I was a little disappointed to see that a couple of my personal favorites, Lost and Adult Swim weren't included in the list.

Sharing videos in Hulu works a lot like YouTube in that you can e-mail videos to your friends, or toss it up on your own Web site via the embed feature. Hulu actually takes sharing one step further than YouTube. You can set start and stop points on the videos that you are sharing, so if you only want to share one scene, or a particularly good 20 seconds of a video, you can do that.

According to TechCrunch, like many of the TV networks' online video solutions, unfortunately Hulu will only make the most recent five episodes of a given series available. Given that I do not know the specific terms of the deals that the companies involved have with Hulu, in my mind, there is no reason for them to start pulling episodes after five weeks of being on the site. As long as they can serve up advertisements with the videos, I think that it would be beneficial to the users, Hulu, content providers, and advertisers to keep those videos up. Although I would imagine that this policy would be different for TV shows that have already run their course, such as Arrested Development.

Hulu is looking very promising, and I expect to see a lot of content providers jumping on the bandwagon in the near future. Being a private beta, it is very likely that features and functionality will change significantly between now and the official public launch. That said, I'm putting downloadable videos (with or without ads), formatted for computers and portable devices on the top of my wish list for future releases.