The Times later attempted to clarify its report. The clarification shed light on why the paper concluded the ad was "free."
Hulu, the online video hub, is a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. The Times said when the site was launched, it received money from the two companies, to be used to run ads on NBCU and News Corp. properties.
Money from those contributions was used to pay NBC Sports for the Super Bowl spot.
The Times apparently concluded that the ad was free because the Super Bowl payment in a sense involved shifting NBCU money from one bucket to another. The ad dollars that NBCU contributed to Hulu were returned to NBCU for the Super Bowl ad.
But at the same time, it's possible that NBCU did garner some "new money" in payment for the ad. That's because News Corp. also contributed money for Hulu to spend on ads on NBCU and News Corp. properties.
A Hulu representative declined to comment.
Several days before the Super Bowl, another Times story cited an NBCU executive who said that Hulu "paid for the advertising time." That report was in conflict with the original Times story Monday. MediaPost cited the Times story in a report Tuesday, and indicated the NBCU executive had mistakenly said the ad was paid for.