Downtown AbbyStreaming video service Hulu is adding a huge collection of PBS television shows to its content library, the company announced Thursday.

The new content is available with commercials to all Hulu users, while premium subscribers of Hulu Plus can watch it commercial-free. Some of the shows now available include Ken Burns library, the first season of Downton Abbey, NOVA, and American Experience, as well as children’s series including Arthur, Dinosaur Train and Wild Kratts. More shows are expected to debut in the future, according to Hulu.

The funny part about the new Hulu content is that it’s actually available for free on the Public Broadcasting Station’s official website, — meaning you don’t have to pay a $9 monthly fee or sit through periodic commercial breaks.

But while a free, uninterrupted service is typically preferred, I see why adding the content would be beneficial to Hulu. First of all Hulu Plus has a strong subscriber base of 1.5 million paying customers, due in large part to its library of current premium television content from ABC, NBC, CW, and Fox. Being able to integrate PBS shows into the service makes it more convenient for people who’ve dropped their cable subscriptions and rely solely on the web for video entertainment.

I’m betting that Hulu is also paying PBS for streaming access to this content, which is always a good thing considering that PBS is a non-profit government-run organization that is severely under funded. (The company did confirm to VentureBeat that it has a licensing agreement in place with PBS, but didn’t elaborate on the details.)

[Downtown Abby image via PBS]