Viacom (NYSE: VIA) is bringing back to Hulu the Comedy Central hits The Daily Show and The Colbert Report nearly a year after they were pulled from the website because the conglomerate felt it wasn’t being compensated enough.
While they returned today to the free site, a collection of other series from Viacom’s stable of cable channels, including MTV’s Jersey Shore, are also part of the deal. But they will reside only on the Hulu Plus subscription service.
In addition to Shore, some of the current series coming to Hulu Plus include Tosh.0, Teen Mom 2, Manswers, Let’s Stay Together, and Hot in Cleveland. The amount of episodes that will be stockpiled on the subscription side varies depending on the show.
They will be made available 21 days after their initial airdate. The three-week span gives content owners the breathing room to maximize advertising revenues on so-called “catch-up” viewing platforms like video on demand and the digital video recorder.
Among the other series that will come to Hulu Plus include library content such as The Chappelle Show, Reno 911, Beavis & Butthead, Real World, Punk’d and Baldwin Hills. Other Viacom channels now supplying Plus include MTV, BET and TV Land.
While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar may have hinted in a long blog post issued Wednesday evening that the deal was structured similar to the arrangement programmers typically have with traditional distributors like cable operators.
“We see strong upside for content owners that are laser-focused on the per-user per-month economics,” he wrote. “A greater percentage of the pie should flow to content owners and creators in the future.”
In addition, Kilar shares a projection that Hulu Plus will surpass 1 million subscribers this year, “to our knowledge the fastest start of any online video subscription service.”
While the infusion of programming is a major shot in the arm for Hulu, the majority of content going to Hulu Plus is telling. Loading up on the subscription-portion of Hulu probably reflects content owners’ like Viacom preferring that as the means to monetize its assets.
In the 21 months they were on Hulu, Colbert and Stewart were among the site’s biggest draws. In their absence, Hulu was linking to the Viacom-owned websites where their episodes will continue to reside. Because Daily and Report generated multiple, topical episodes each week, they gave Hulu users a powerful incentive to return to the site–which likely gave Viacom leverage in negotiations.
That may also explain why Daily and Report will remain on the free site; they provide a potent lead-in to sampling other programming and maybe even upgrading to Hulu Plus.
While Hulu has been a hit with audiences in terms of sheer traffic, it hasn’t wowed programmers who are looking for something more substantial than the advertising-revenue split that yields far less than what they are accustomed to getting on TV.
And yet Hulu affords more exposure to in-video advertising than any other site online. While Hulu may trail the likes of YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) and AOL (NYSE: AOL) for unique viewers, it is tops in ads viewed in its videos, with 1.2 million in December, according to Comscore.
Hulu had over 26 million unique visitors to its videos in December, enough to be ranked 10th overall.
Here’s the press release announcing the deal.
And have a gander at the Feb. 1 episode of Daily on Hulu, embedded below: