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How Hulu Is Helping Shows Like Dawson’s Creek and Melrose Place Find New Audiences

New Sony deal adds Party of Five and The Shield

Dawson's Creek, Party of Five and The Shield are looking to reach a new generation of viewers on Hulu. Getty Images

While most outlets are using their time at Television Critics Association's winter press tour to focus on upcoming shows, Hulu took a different approach to part of its presentation: showing how the streaming service has helped bring new audiences to beloved series of the past.

"We've signed a multi-year agreement with Sony, which is going to bring a tremendous lineup of programming, including all episodes of series like The Shield, Party of Five, Dawson's Creek and a vast movie library to Hulu," said svp of content Craig Erwich. Also included in the deal: Damages and Happy Endings.

Several TV creators who have shows streaming on Hulu talked about how subscription video on demand (SVOD) services are giving their projects new life—and a new revenue stream. "We're excited about the fact that new audiences are discovering our shows," said Darren Star, creator of '90s hit programs Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place.

As for the financial benefits of appearing on Hulu, Star said he's not making anywhere near the estimated $180 million that Hulu paid to secure SVOD rights to Seinfeld last spring. "There's an income stream, but I read that Seinfeld story, I was like, wait a second, that's a lot of money! I'm not sure that's happening here," said Star.

Even with so many options to watch new content—409 scripted series and counting, as well as a myriad of video options like YouTube—"people want to binge…people still want to watch," said CSI creator Anthony Zuiker. "The fact that people are watching television is a great thing, because it is moving our discipline forward."

And while these creators weren't thinking about binge-viewing when they made their programs (because the concept doesn't exist), they certainly do so now in their current shows. "I do think in terms of building a season,  that there is a reward at the end, there is a treat for people who power through a show," said Veronica Mars and Party Down creator Rob Thomas. "I have been conscious of it since then in a way that I wasn't originally."

In addition to its nostalgic TV trip, Hulu also discussed its biggest original series play yet: the miniseries 11.22.63, which premieres on Feb. 15. The show, executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Stephen King, is based on King's novel about a schoolteacher (played by James Franco) who goes back in time to try to prevent John F. Kennedy's assassination.

"We feel incredibly lucky to be working with Hulu. They've been remarkable and incredibly collaborative and excited about this as we were. That really is why we ended up there," said Abrams of his decision to work with Hulu for the first time. "We did go out to a number of different places, had some offers, but the enthusiasm was clear and it matched ours."

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