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Hulu Offers Ad-Free Subscription Tier

Continuing a newsy 2015, Hulu announced Wednesday it has added a new commercial-free subscription tier, confirming speculation from earlier this summer.

For $11.99, $4 more than the regular subscription fee, viewers get an SVOD experience comparable to that of Netflix and Amazon Prime. One caveat exists for those who sign up through Apple's iTunes: due to what Hulu calls "transaction costs associated with Apple," the actual cost rises to $13.99 a month.

Just two years after yanking Hulu off the market after months of sale attempts, Hulu’s majority stakeholders (Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal) have been investing heavily and making aggressive moves in the war for SVOD attention against its even-deeper-pocketed rivals.

This year alone, there have been numerous headlines. The company removed the “Plus” designation from its subscription service. (An ad-supported version is still available on desktop and laptop computers, but not mobile devices.) It reported having 9 million subscribers last spring, a 50% jump from 2014 levels. Driven by the content supply of its owners but also including flagship properties from outside such as South Park and Seinfeld, Hulu now features more than 3,600 TV series and 116,000 individual episodes.

The service also has 5,100 feature film titles. This week, in fact, it wrested Epix film content from Netflix, which will add notable franchises like Hunger Games and Transformers It also made news this summer by debuting an $8.99 a month version of Showtime’s premium offering, which was the first time it had been offered directly to subscribers. Its originals lineup has expanded to include Difficult People, Casual and the upcoming 11/22/63.

“At Hulu, we pride ourselves on listening to our customers and giving them the best possible experience,” said CEO Mike Hopkins. “Many of our customers have asked us for a commercial free option, and so today we are excited to introduce just that. Providing more choice for consumers is fundamental to the Hulu experience, in addition to an array of choices in content and devices, our customers can now choose to watch with or without commercials.”

In announcing the new commercial-free option, the company also pointed out that both its fully ad-supported and its $7.99 subscription tier feature programmatic tools that serve more targeted and relevant ads. The $7.99 level also has fewer ads than would appear in a typical linear broadcast, Hulu said.

Some in the tech and media world pointed out that the "ad-free" gloss wasn't entirely correct. As Hulu itself noted in an FAQ about the new offering, certain shows (interestingly, most of them on ABC) could not be cleared for commercial-free streaming. "Specific shows that still have commercials accessible through the No Commercials plan will be noted throughout the signup, switching, and playback experience. While the list of shows may change, these shows are currently: Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, Grimm, New Girl, and How To Get Away With Murder."