Year-Old Hulu Sees Major Growth and Adds Social Features

Hulu added social networking features and other extras to its site to mark the one-year anniversary of its public launch. The video site also formed a distribution deal with Condé Nast Digital to distribute content from multiple properties across the publishing brand.

The initiatives come as Hulu lays claim to the number two traffic ranking among video sites, behind only YouTube, according toNielsen Online’s VideoCensus figures reported by several outlets.

During what it calls Fan Appreciation Week, Hulu announced Hulu Friends, a way for users of the site to connect with their friends to share videos, comment on recent shows and content, and view each others’ rankings. Hulu is integrated with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Facebook, and Myspace, and will allow users to find and invite friends using those tools. Once a network of friends is formed, individuals can view how active their friends are on Hulu’s scorecard by hovering over the person’s name with the mouse. Users can see how many videos their friends have watched and rated.

Friends is one of a list of features and bonuses Hulu intends to roll out over the next week. Each day more will be revealed on the Fan Appreciation page. Already the site revealed a content package called Hulu Awards Winners, a roster of the top-played and top-rated videos on the site, along with the most viewed embedded videos, most e-mailed videos, most searched shows, and most searched people on Hulu.

Meanwhile Condé Nast Digital formed a distribution agreement with Hulu to provide content from several of the publisher’s platforms, including Style.com, Epicurious.com, Wire.com, and Men.Style.com. Each of the channels will update with new videos weekly. Hulu will be able to distribute Condé Nast’s content to partners including AOL, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo, under the terms of the agreement.

The agreement is in addition to existing relationships Condé Nast Digital has with YouTube, Adobe Media Player, Sony Bravia Internet Video, and Verizon V-Cast.

Added content from Condé Nast will mean more ad inventory. In the year since Hulu became available to the public, it has grown from a base of 30 advertisers to close to 200 advertisers. Regular sponsors include Johnson & Johnson, Honda, McDonald’s, and Visa.

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