Hulu and other online video streaming providers are looking for what’s beyond being a platform for cable programming. For those who don’t want to spend half their evening setting up the DVR for every show they could conceivably want to watch, providers like Hulu, Netflix and now even Amazon have given them a place for solace. As the interest grows in these companies, cable providers give more and more restrictions.
For Hulu, the restrictions might just be what is needed to branch out into the realm of original series. It use to be that Hulu, (which is owned by ABC, Fox and NBC’s parent companies) would have shows on their site the day after they premiered. Now shows like Scandal and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are only available the next day to those who have subscribed to Hulu Plus and are free a week later to those who didn’t. ABC’s restrictions, just like FOX had done previously, are put in place to keep paying subscribers of course.
Waiting a week may not seem like that big of a deal to anyone who can still remember when movies took a year to be released on VHS. For a modern consumer, it’s a week too late and good luck passing the water cooler without hearing some spoiler alerts.
Do viewers want to pay extra on top of paying a cable bill or is it turning away more people who originally went to the site for next day content? This may very well be why, (unlike Netflix, which on top of original series only concerns itself with full seasons of shows well after they’ve aired), Hulu is still struggling in second place.
Statistics alone would be enough reason for Hulu to venture into original programming. Netflix had success with original shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. It also has 30 million paying subscribers, where as Hulu’s subscribers base is at four million and just recently reached $1 billion in annual revenue.
Though only launching a few original series so far, Hulu has seen success in the market. One example is its show The Wrong Mans, a BBC Television comedy drama series about two council co-workers who land in a slew of troubles after answering a ringing phone near a car crash. The series itself was released in full on Hulu Plus and the first two episodes were released on the free service.
In a recent interview with CNN Money, Charlotte Koh, Head of Development for Hulu Originals, hopes consumers will view the online video hubs like supermarkets, in that “You always go in because you know you’re going to buy some milk, but you might try some brand new cookies.” The cookies will indeed have to be good enough to keep viewers coming back for more, and for some they already are.
With shows like The Awesome and Behind the Mask coming back for a second season, Koh seems rather positive. When discussing Netflix, Amazon and Hulu’s process, Koh said, “The great thing is we’re all doing it together at the same time. So I think that helps shift the consumer mindset about how to look at streaming.”
It’s fair to mention that the biggest change before the “how-to” of streaming TV shows online was the ability to watch TV shows online at all. It’s these same heavy hitters that have made that possible.
In 2014, Hulu is set to launch four new series, including Deadbeat, a supernatural comedy produced by Lionsgate Television and a mock reality TV show called The Hotwives of Orlando. Will these be a plus or a minus? It should soon be easy enough to tell if Hulu has what it takes to come out ahead.
By Joseph Kibler