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Hulu starts streaming full-length TV episodes in HD


Just seven so far, including episodes from "The Office," "24," "Heroes," and "30 Rock," but hopefully more are on the way—and yes, they look great.

Hulu has had a Flash-powered "HD Gallery" for several months, but until now, it's only been stocked with a handful of nature videos and movie trailers.

For the record, the seven full-length episodes are: "Goodbye, Toby" from season four of "The Office"; "10 a.m. – 11 a.m." from season six of "24"; "Powerless" from season two of "Heroes"; "Cooter" from the second season of "30 Rock"; plus an episode each from "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," "Three Sheets," and "Moscow."

All the episodes are presented in 720p (although they may be down-scaled to 480p depending on your connection speed), and they looked razor-sharp to my eyes (I watched on my MacBook Pro using Firefox, backed by a broadband Net connection). The video streamed pretty smoothly save for the odd judder, and episodes started the moment I hit the "play" button—nice.

For "a limited time", the HD episodes are ad-free, but I'm sure non-skippable commercials will arrive once Hulu sells the ad space.

Hulu is actually a little late to the streaming HD party; ABC launched its
on-the-Web HD player (stocked mainly with "Lost," although a smattering of other shows are available) last July, and CBS began testing its own HD gallery (with a handful of episodes from "CSI: NY," "Flashpoint," "How I Met Your Mother," and "Star Trek: TOS") back in March.

Still, Hulu lets you edit and embed HD clips for use on your own Web site—a trick that neither the CBS nor ABC players will let you do, or at least not yet.

And in terms of HD, Hulu, ABC, and CBS all have a leg up on Apple TV and Amazon Unbox, which don't offer any TV episodes in HD. The Xbox Video Marketplace has had HD shows for download since its launch back in fall 2006.

So, when can we expect more HD TV shows—and movies, for that matter—from Hulu? Well, there's "no timetable" for now, according to Hulu spokesman Brandon Boone, although the service "will be continuing to make investments in bringing more programs, including movies, to our users in HD," Boone said.

What do you think—would you be happy to watch TV shows on the Web, even with non-skippable ads, so long as they're in HD?