More than any other streaming service in the multiplatform business, Hulu represents a wealth of opportunities, at least if you ignore the constant is-or-isn’t-it-for-sale buzz. The company is majority owned by networks that provide its content, so there’s no Netflix-like incentive to squeeze Hulu until it can’t afford programming fees anymore, and it’s ad-supported.
But Hulu has been through significant changes in the last three years, which is why it’s perhaps unexpected that the company’s original programming strategy has progressed steadily. Since September, head of development Charlotte Koh has renewed two series—The Awesomes and Behind the Mask—under two CEOs: Mike Hopkins took over for acting CEO Andy Forssell in October. Indeed, Hulu has appeared stable enough to high-profile partners to attract co-productions—the BBC joined Hulu for recent hit The Wrong Mans, and Lionsgate announced in August that it would get into the game next year with a supernatural comedy, Deadbeat.
“All of our partners, subsequent to [working with] us, have come back to pitch us again and again,” Koh told Adweek. “[Next,] we’d love to figure out what the right one-hour drama is.”
Koh said Lionsgate “would be a key candidate to launch that business because we have a slightly younger audience,” but nothing is set yet. Still, Hulu is gearing up for its 2014 NewFront, and its owners, whether or not they’re fighting over international distribution or how to divide the spoils, are letting Hulu’s original content business evolve naturally. Koh, who worked for Fox Searchlight and Marvel Entertainment before going to Hulu under former CEO Jason Kilar in 2011, said she’s seen the company’s original offerings go from “an incredibly modest slate” to “a leap forward in scope and scale” in the past years.
Brad Adgate, svp, director of research for Horizon Media, said that the company has thumbed its nose at naysayers. “People thought Kilar was like Tito in Yugoslavia,” Adgate said. “He held all these different factions together and was able to make things work. But Yugoslavia blew up, and Hulu was able to pull it together.”
Meanwhile, RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank praised Hopkins as “a builder of bridges” to Bloomberg after the exec’s appointment. Bank predicts Hulu will pitch cable operators on the idea of a “white-label TV Everywhere service.” That strategy, mixed with a steady stream of originals and shows from its currently at-peace network owners, could be Hulu’s way forward.