Hulu Plans to Go ‘Bigger and Brasher’ with Originals, Says CEO

/ Apr 2, 2014


When Hulu named Mike Hopkins its new chief executive officer last October, one concern was how important original programming would be for the video service going forward. Hopkins, a longtime TV distribution executive at Fox Networks, was now in charge, and the company was still owned by a trio of TV networks. So no one would have been surprised if Hulu pivoted away from its original fare and embedded itself deeper into its TV roots.

In his first public speaking gig since being named CEO, Hopkins, presenting during Ad Age Digital, attempted to lay those concerns to rest. “We are going to be much more aggressive in producing high-quality, bigger-budget original programming,” said Hopkins, as the company grows and continues to invest in content.

This move is influenced by Hulu’s desire to assert its brand among the growing online video market. Yes, a majority of the company’s business has to do with last night’s and prior-season TV programming — arguably to an even-greater extent than it is for Hulu competitors like Netflix and Amazon. But, according to Hopkins, it’s going to be the originals leg of this “three-legged” content stool that ultimately defines the online video brand. Much in the same way “House of Cards” has come to define Netflix, and “The Sopranos” became synonymous with HBO when the cable network moved into original shows, Hulu wants a brand-defining series, too.

The question is: How long until the company launches higher-profile original fare? Hopkins didn’t provide any sort of timeframe.

Until then, though, Hulu has started opening its checkbook to market some of its original shows. Hopkins pointed out how billboards for its upcoming ghost-comedy “Deadbeat” are popping up in New York (they are) — though it’s nowhere near the extent to which Netflix blanketed the city when “House of Cards” first exploded on to the scene.

Baby steps, though, Hopkins implied. Since Hulu is in the market for last night’s episodes, in addition to original programming and previous seasons of popular TV shows, and because the platform is primarily ad-supported, the company has to be more “selective” in terms of its content acquisitions and marketing strategy. (Hulu Plus has 5 million subscribers, miles away from the 33.4 million subscribers Netflix has in the US.)

That said, ultimately, it seems Hopkins’ goal for Hulu is similar to what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said about his company — a premium TV network that’s available across multiple platforms. Sixty percent of Hulu Plus subscribers already stream Hulu content on devices other than a PC, said Hopkins. When asked if Hulu wants to be on the cable box, he said that’s a goal the company is “working very hard to fulfill.”

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