NextGuide’s iPad app updates its catalog with 18,000 Hulu clips

NextGuide, the self-professed Switzerland of online TV guides, just rolled out an update to its iPad (s AAPL) app that adds a lot of new content to its catalog. Users now have access to some 18,000 clips, including snippets from recent episodes of Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show, the Simpsons and more.

That’s obviously neat for users of the app, especially in combination with NextGuide’s personalized recommendations. If you’ve ever ‘liked’ a certain band or actor on Facebook(s FB), then you’ll be able to watch the latest clips of them appearing on SNL or the Colbert Report on NextGuide.

But there’s something else that’s interesting about this announcement: All of the clips will be available for free, regardless of whether you’ve subscribed to Hulu Plus or not. That’s notable because Hulu’s own mobile apps only make content available to paying subscribers.

Is Hulu somehow undermining Hulu Plus by giving content away for free on mobile devices? Hardly. 18,000 clips may sound like a lot, but it’s really just a small subset of the programming available through the subscription service, and it doesn’t include any of the full episodes available to Hulu Plus subscribers.

NextGuide lists those full episodes, but you’ll need a subscription as well the Hulu Plus app installed on your iPad to access them. And a bunch of the Hulu clips available through NextGuide are movie trailers, which are available for free on a bunch of other sites and services as well.

Still, there is something intriguing about having all those short Hulu snippets available through a mobile app. For one thing, it hints at an interesting possibility for Hulu: The video service has long made short clips of TV shows available through a variety of sites and distributors. Some have even been freely available on mobile devices before. But what Hulu hasn’t been able to do is capture mind share for this kind of offering. We tend to think of the service as a way to catch up on last night’s TV show episodes, not as something that helps TV highlights go viral.

If Hulu embraced that part of its business, it could easily generate many millions of additional views. Case in point:, which specializes in short clips from Hollywood blockbusters, clocks more than 1 billion views per month. Making clips available through apps like NextGuide could be Hulu’s first step towards stepping up its game in the short and viral space as well.