Ask and ye shall receive. American streaming service Hulu announced today that it will now offer users a $12-per-month ad-free subscription—$4 more than a normal Hulu subscription, which includes commercials during shows. The Wall Street Journal first reported (paywall) that the company was exploring this option back in July.
“You can split people into two categories: ad avoiders and ad acceptors,” Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins told the New York Times. “There are clearly people who just are not going to buy Hulu because there are ads. We think we can bring them back into the fold with new content and this new choice.”
The new, more expensive option makes the current ad-supported model of Hulu seem cheaper by comparison. Hulu executives are hoping that the $12 ad-free service not only reels in new subscribers, but also keeps the ones who already subscribe to the original version.
Hulu is vastly unlike Netflix, in that it’s jointly owned by NBC, Fox, and Disney—three companies that own a massive stake in the TV advertising business. As Peter Kafka of Recode notes, Hulu has no intention of abandoning its ad model altogether. In fact, it expects that the majority of its subscribers will remain with the ad-supported version. A few shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder, will still have short ads at the beginning and end of episodes, because Hulu couldn’t wrangle the the rights to stream them commercial-free.
In the end, though, Hulu had little hope of gaining much more ground on Netflix without a version to appease those who hate the ads (or miss the sonorous voice of Dave Fennoy). As it stands now, Hulu has about 9 million US subscribers to Netflix’s 40 million. That said, Hulu can compete with Netflix on its breadth of content: The company has invested heavily in programming over the past year, recently grabbing the exclusive streaming rights to shows like Seinfeld and South Park, cutting deals with AMC and FX to stream their shows, and even developing a number of ambitious shows of its own.