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Hulu enjoys first birthday, brags about its success

Hulu is celebrating its first birthday, and in order to commemorate the occasion, the service releases figures detailing how well it has performed over the past year.

Hulu, the free video streaming service backed by NBC Universal and Fox, announced that it's celebrating its first birthday Wednesday, and along with that celebration, it released some internal survey results to give users an update on where the service stands today.

Much of the data Hulu provided comes from a survey it commissioned from July 2008 to August 2008, as well as an online study in October 2008 that features results from 2,500 adults over the age of 18.

Citing Nielsen VideoCensus figures, Hulu claims it streamed 142 million videos last month and was the sixth-most popular video site on the Web. Hulu also said that 98 percent of its users would recommend the service to friends and almost 80 percent of survey respondents who used Hulu in the last 30 days rated it as "Excellent" or "Very Good."

Aside from self-serving figures, Hulu did provide an important finding that provides some real insight into exactly what makes Hulu (and probably other video services like YouTube and MySpaceTV) popular. According to its study, users value Hulu because the videos are free, available anytime, and the quality of programming is high. And it's that formula, the company explains, that makes the site successful.

Advertising is a key component in the future success of Hulu, and so far, the site has performed relatively well. Its internal figures show that advertiser brand awareness jumped by 1.2 percent after advertising on Hulu and brand favorability rose 8.9 percent after advertisements were placed on the site. Most importantly, Hulu claims that 93 percent of survey respondents said the site offers the "right amount of ads" in exchange for free videos.

Since its inception, Hulu's content providers have grown substantially. At launch, the site had 40 providers, but today, it boasts more than 110 networks, like Comedy Central, the Sundance Channel, and PBS. The site also features 1,000 show titles today, which is up from 90 on its launch day. Movie titles have also grown from 10 to almost 400.

There's no debating that Hulu is enjoying success. But with competitors like Fancast offering the same basic service and targeting the same audience, we can't forget that Hulu isn't alone in its desire to be the de facto leader in professional video content.