Hulu CEO Andy Forssell Talks Originals, Advertising, That Sale That Never Happened

/ Sep 24, 2013

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In a one-on-one chat with Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Hulu acting CEO and SVP of content Andy Forsell said his company’s originals command 5% of viewing on Hulu. Looking into the future, Forsell was bullish, saying that he thinks Hulu originals will rise to account for 10-15% of total viewing on the video service.

Forsell also reiterated the success of “The Awesomes,” an animated superhero comedy series from Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker. He said the show, which Hulu recently renewed for a second season, is a top 10 show on the site. Similarly, Forsell said people are watching “Quick Draw,” a quirky western comedy set in the 1870s. He said it was also a top 10 show on Hulu and that the company is seeing that people are watching every episode, instead of watching a few and leaving. “We looked at the stats,” said Forsell. “The number watching every episode is amazing.”

That said, Forsell declined to disclose any actual data in terms of viewership for Hulu originals. When asked why, Forsell pointed to a couple of things: 1) On-demand content has a longer shelf life than linear TV, so the company will be able to aggregate a larger audience over the course of months rather than within a limited time frame; and 2) Hulu sells against aggregated audiences rather than individual shows.

“It’s natural for people to ask for ratings,” said Forsell. “When people are desperate for ratings, it goes back to the old way of aggregating audience. We don’t want to put the pressure on any one show to aggregate an audience.” He said that Hulu can be more patient than TV networks and will look to aggregate audience across many shows. “‘The Awesomes’ has done well,” added Forsell, “but we can market [the show] in a way where we can build an audience over the first year. I guarantee that show is going to continue to perform well for six more months.”

That was a major throughline for the speech as Forsell said Hulu reaches an aggregated audience of 80 to 90 million people across Hulu and Hulu Plus “every few quarters.” With its original programming, the goal for Hulu is to give audiences another reason to keep on coming back to the site.

As for competition, Forsell said he does not see a lot of direct competition with its owners. Maybe in five years that will be the case, but right now it’s not an issue. Additionally, while he considers Netflix as competition in terms of being another content buyer, he says it’s not as “head-to-head as most people would think, though we certainly run into them.” At the end of the day, Forsell claimed that Hulu is not missing out on any programming pitches it wishes it had seen.

Rothenberg did open the conversation with a question about Hulu’s second attempt at a sales process, which earlier this summer ended like the previous one did, with no sale. Forsell acknowledged that he can’t say it wasn’t a distraction, but simply credited his team for “keeping their heads down” and staying focused. He didn’t mention what many are claiming to be an exodus of executives at the company.

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