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The notion that Hulu would expand to the UK first has been around almost as long as the online video portal itself. But the joint venture of News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), NBCUniversal (NSDQ: CMCSA) and Disney (NYSE: DIS) is headed in a very different direction for its first international launch — Japan — and it will be all subscription.
Known simply as Hulu (in the U.S., the “free” service is Hulu, while the premium service is Hulu Plus), the new service will launch in Japan “later this year” with promises to be the first subscription entertainment offering there available across four screens. The company started collecting e-mail addresses from potential subscribers today at www.hulu.jp. International head Johannes Larcher blogged about the plans:
With the launch of Hulu’s Japanese subscription service, for the first time entertainment fans in Japan will have access to a large selection of premium feature films and popular TV shows at any time, on four screens (PCs, TVs, mobile phones, and tablets), for one monthly price. We are not announcing further details of the product offering at this time (we have to leave something to the imagination, right?) but we will share the specifics when we launch.
… We believe Japan is a vibrant market for premium video content distribution online, and are committed to our Japanese service for the long-term. We have opened offices in Tokyo, with a dedicated Japanese team designing and running the service, and are hard at work finalizing preparations for launch later this year.
Japan has one other thing going for it: competitor Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) is focused elsewhere for now, launching first in Canada, with plans this fall for Latin America and unannounced plans for the UK and Spain early next year.
Japan was rumored as an expansion possibility for Hulu late last year.