NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hulu, the video website owned by News Corp and NBC Universal, said on Tuesday its service will be distributed on seven new sites, making its archive of popular television shows more widely available.
The deals come as usage on Hulu and its partner sites exceeded all U.S. television network websites -- including those owned by its founders -- in its first month since launching publicly, Hulu said, citing Nielsen's VideoCensus data.
Hulu videos will now be distributed on entertainment and social network sites TV.com, TVGuide.com, BuddyTV.com, Flixster.com, MyYearbook.com, Break.com and Zap2it.com, said Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit.
Hulu, which hosts free episodes of current shows such as "The Simpsons" and "The Office" as well as past hits like "WKRP In Cincinnati," is showing early signs of success in a market dominated by Google Inc's YouTube.
"While it is extremely early in terms of Hulu's history of serving users, we're quite excited to see such positive trends in Hulu's growth and viewership," Kilar said ahead of his presentation at the summit in New York.
In April, users watched 63.2 million videos on Hulu and its partners' sites and its viewers spent on average viewing 129.3 minutes per month, beating nearest rival Walt Disney Co's ABC.com, where users watched 60.8 million videos and spent an average of 57.3 minutes, according to Nielsen.
Hulu's figures remain a far cry from those of YouTube, where users watched more than 4 billion videos in the same period. Its viewers spent about 90 minutes per month watching.
But Hulu has attracted major advertisers including McDonald's Corp, Bank of America Corp, and Blackberry-maker Research In Motion Ltd.
Hulu was widely criticized for arriving well after YouTube established itself as the preeminent source of online videos and years after ABC.com first started offering the network's top shows for free. Hulu was hyped by bloggers and analysts as a "YouTube-killer," a moniker that Hulu has repeatedly denied.
But technology-savvy users and blogs gave Hulu high marks for its cleanly designed site and trove of full-length shows.
Its launch has also inspired debate on the value of homemade videos and videos made outside of established television studios, such as those hosted on France's Dailymotion and YouTube, compared with the professional shows hosted on Hulu and other network-owned sites.
Martin Rogard, France country manager for Dailymotion, said he saw Hulu as a less attractive option for investors and users than his own site, which is primarily a source of home videos and clips of professionally produced content.
"I don't see our users as willing to necessarily go after what they can see of TV. Because they can see it on TV," Rogard said at the Reuters summit in Paris on Monday. Hulu is one of the few places where viewers can easily find a library of recently broadcast and archived television shows.
"They should be proud and they are number one relative to its major partners," Forrester analyst James McQuivey said.
However, the analyst said he had expected as many as 80 million to 100 million videos to be viewed on Hulu by now given its lineup of partners with big Internet portals: Time Warner Inc's AOL, Comcast Corp, Yahoo Inc, News Corp's MySpace and Microsoft Corp's MSN.
Hulu's partners have yet to figure out how best to attract more usage, McQuivey said, pointing out that it has been somewhat difficult to find Hulu videos easily on AOL.com.
"It suggests that the partners have a little more work to do to capture their fair share of the audience," he said, referring to Hulu's content partners.
Kilar said the lion's share of viewers outside of Hulu.com depend on search to find shows and that it still had work to help improve its partners' ability to find Hulu videos.
Offering Hulu outside of the United States is a top priority for the company. "I personally would be very disappointed if we don't bring Hulu out in the next several years to countries around the globe," Kilar said.
Rumors of international expansion were reported on several blogs in April after one Web surfer in Switzerland reported seeing a default page that said Hulu was working on international availability.
Licensing and copyright issues, which are regionally negotiated, have held up the expansion, although Kilar said rights owners are warming to the idea.
Hulu is also mulling offering its services on any Internet-connected devices such as mobile devices and televisions, although Kilar declined to give specifics.
"Our mission is to help people find and enjoy the world's premium content when, where and how they want it," he said. "It can go a lot of different places."
(For summit blog: summitnotebook.reuters.com/)
(For more on the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summits see
Editing by Derek Caney, Phil Berlowitz