Supporters of ad-supported online media may finally have a financial success story. Hulu says it reached profitability in Q4 2009 and Q1 2010 (although it seems premature to make earnings claims before the quarter has actually ended). In 2009, revenue topped $100 million. The company was quiet on exactly how much profit was generated. But the point is that Hulu generated a profit - pretty momentous considering the high levels of doubt under which it has always operated.

The company's content-related expenses will look familiar to those in the music business. Hulu gives 50% to 70% of its advertising revenue to its content partners, amounts similar to what music services pay to content owners.

One knock on Hulu and other ad-supported services: By diverting consumers from television to online, the thinking goes, networks and content owners are damaging their core platform (TV) at the expense of making relative puny gains elsewhere (the Internet).

There is no clear-cut way to gauge Hulu's net impact. It has probably pulled some viewers away from broadcast television. It has probably diverted some viewers away from illegal services. But, in some cases, Hulu can allow some new shows to find their footing before putting up better numbers at broadcast television.

Hulu is a joint venture of Fox, NBC, ABC and Providence Equity Partners.