Hulu is making a big splash this summer with a fairly large investment in original online video series showing that it is just as important to their business model as TV content is. It has to make you wonder what kind of meetings are going on in that board room at times. I suspect that, with the ownership partners pushing to have pay TV authentication (the requirement that users have a pay TV subscription in order to view content from the networks), Hulu CEO Jason Kilar is looking at other ways to keep the company viable as doing so would probably put a serious pinch on user numbers.
I've made it abundantly clear that I'm against pay TV authentication because the majority of content Hulu offers, and people want, is basically free over-the-air from the major networks and that I think it would pretty much destroy Hulu. But that's all something for another day when I, hopefully, get together with the Hulu CEO for a quick interview (for a new series I am starting here).
But today I want to talk about Hulu's major push into online content. After some mild dabbling in the past they are going full bore now with three original shows as well as pulling in some other exclusives from outside the traditional US channel lineup. Which begs the question, "If Hulu is paying for the rights to offer the content, why would users then also have to have pay TV to see it on Hulu?"
Today, Hulu announced their summer lineup of original web series (three of them – see below) and other shows that they've gained exclusive rights to (seven of them). The three shows will include the likes of Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater (filmmaker), Lance Barber and covers a wide range of topics from movie reviews to strange travel destinations and full-on in-your-face comedy. The seven exclusives they've invested in draw in things from UK via BBC and Canada via HBO Canada that Americans might not otherwise have a chance to see, effectively making it all original content.
The commitment to content made for the online audience as well as their pursuit of interesting content from abroad shows that Hulu knows the power of their service and their streaming offering and that by differentiating the service from just being a cloud-based DVR service for standard network TV shows, they are paving the way toward a more Internet-centered video entertainment lifestyle.
Sure, you can still catch up with shows like Smash, 2 Broke Girls and Touch on Hulu, but the content is starting to expand well beyond the massive library of old movies and current on-air American TV. That is the drive which, I think, will make Hulu a service that will be around for a long time to come.
Getting mired in content that will bring with it requirements for external subscriptions is a bad idea and I think this new slate of content shows that someone very high up at Hulu realizes that and knows they need to get content from other sources to offer a more divers array of interesting content that is not directly tied to cable or satellite providers in the US. The latter just need to open their eyes to the way audiences want to get their content and get on board with it because they're stuck in an old business model full of bloated channel packages and high prices which offer little in the way flexibility. Online video isn't going to just dry up and disappear and even Google is betting on it becoming the norm instead of the exception.
Here's the full list of original and exclusive content that Hulu will be firing up this summer.
HULU ORIGINAL SERIES
- For fans of: “Inside the Actors’ Studio,” “Comic Book Men,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Conan,” “The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon”
- Kevin Smith's Movie “Revue” – a mix of lively group chats, interviews with movie and pop culture icons and animated shorts. New episodes premiere every Monday beginning on June 4; Entire series available on August 6
“Up To Speed”
- For fans of: “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” “The Cruise,” “Waking Life,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
- A Travel Show About The Road Less Traveled – Each week “Up to Speed” follows tour guide, historian and flaneur Timothy “Speed” Levitch (“The Cruise”) as he visits the monumentally-ignored monuments of America’s cities. Premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus in August.
“We Got Next”
- For fans of: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The League,” “Men of a Certain Age”
- A Bro-mantic Comedy – “We Got Next” is a raunchy, sarcastic and out-of-bounds half-hour show about a pick-up basketball team of four guys who should never have been friends in the first place. Each week, the guys’ courtside banter consistently escalates into a run of terrible advice and poor decision-making. The series premieres in August on Hulu and Hulu Plus.
- For fans of: “The Office” (U.K.), “Peep Show,” “Spaced,” “Parks & Recreation,” “House”
- Meet The Rev. Adam Smallbone. From a sleepy, rural parish, the newly promoted vicar has moved to the busy, inner-city world of St. Saviour's in East London. It's a world in which he has little experience, and it shows. It really shows. The series premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus on June 3rd from BBC Worldwide Americas Digital Distribution. Six (6) episodes in season one; seven (7) episodes in season two.
- For fans of: “South Park,” “Family Guy,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Summer Heights High,” “The Wire,” “Archer,” “Arrested Development”
- A mockumentary miniseries that originally aired on HBO Canada, “The Yard” offers a bizarre juxtaposition of two rival cliques of elementary school children, where tension develops much like the quintessential crime-family thriller. Six (6) episodes. Premieres: June 7, 2012
“Derren Brown: Inside Your Mind”
- For fans of: “Criss Angel,” “Penn & Teller: Tell a Lie,” “Fact or Faked,” “Mythbusters,” “Lie to Me,” “Psych,” “The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon,” “Conan”
- Derren Brown is a performer like none other in the world. He uses psychology, magic, showmanship and suggestion to achieve things that for anyone else would be impossible. The series premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus on July 7th. Four (4) episodes.
“The Booth at the End” (Season Two)
- For fans of: “The Booth at the End” (Season One), “Lie To Me,” “Bones,” “Castle,” “Grimm,” “Touch,” “Lost,” “Psych,” “Fringe,” “The X-Files”
- Xander Berkeley, best known for his roles as “George Mason” in FOX’s “24” and “Percy” in The CW’s "Nikita," stars as an enigmatic man occupying the corner booth of a diner. He possesses the power to grant desires, contingent upon recipients performing mysterious tasks. Season two premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus in July. Five (5) episodes. Premieres: July 2012
- For fans of: “My So Called Life,” “New Girl,” “Awkward,” “Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Up All Night,” "Skins” (U.S. and U.K.), “Hart of Dixie,” “One Tree Hill,” “Teen Mom”
- Jamie and Laura are two young, free and single teenagers who, after hooking up at a party, soon find they have a very big complication on their hands. Laura is pregnant. So even though they barely know each other, they now have one thing in common – and it’s getting bigger. Six (6) episodes.Premieres: July 19, 2012
- For fans of: “Homeland,” “Munich,” “Persepolis,” “Pillars of the Earth”
- A BAFTA-nominated, four-part political thriller and love story. The serial drama examines the origins of the Middle East conflict in events that took place under British rule sixty years ago. The series premieres on Hulu and Hulu Plus on August 11th. Four (4) episodes. Premieres: August 11, 2012
- For fans of: “Modern Family,” “Arrested Development,” “Parenthood”
- “Little Mosque” is a light-hearted and comedic fish-out-of-water tale about a small Muslim community that rents the parish hall of a small town church to use as a mosque. Produced by WestWind Pictures, “Little Mosque” will premiere on Hulu and Hulu Plus this summer. 91 episodes. Premieres: June 28, 2012