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Hulu's free streaming service is winding down

Hulu's free streaming service is winding down
(Dan Goodman / Associated Press)

Hulu's free TV streaming service is coming to an end as the company places its bets on subscriptions.

The 9-year-old Internet binge-watching portal has long used its no-cost, ad-supported version to draw users to its service.

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But now it is winding down that part of its business in favor of the more lucrative subscription model, which offers users a broader selection and fewer interruptions for a monthly fee starting at $7.99.

Customers will be notified of the change over the next few days, the company said Monday.

Hulu's move is not a surprise, given its recent efforts to convert more of its free users into paying customers. The company has been trying to bulk up its offering with more popular programming, movies and original shows to compete with Netflix and Amazon. Though Hulu has 12 million subscribers in the U.S., it is still not profitable.

The move comes less than a week after Time Warner Inc. said it would pay $583 million for a 10% stake in Hulu. Time Warner joins current owners Walt Disney Co., Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, which will each maintain a 30% interest.

Hulu's free version had been waning in popularity because of its limited selection. Free users only had access to episodes of recent broadcast shows eight days after they aired. Meanwhile, Hulu has built up the subscription version with new shows including "Casual."

"For the past couple years, we've been focused on building a subscription service that provides the deepest, most personalized content experience possible to our viewers," Hulu senior vice president Ben Smith said in a statement. "As we have continued to enhance that offering with new originals, exclusive acquisitions and movies, the free service became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy."

Hulu's free content isn't disappearing altogether. The company has signed a deal with struggling tech giant Yahoo for much of the programming to appear on the new Yahoo View streaming destination.

Hulu is separately planning to launch a live-streaming service next year as an alternative to pricey traditional pay-TV packages.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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