Hulu Takes on Netflix with New Slate of Original Programming
Netflix’s success with original programming in recent years has apparently served as inspiration to competitors. Earlier this week, Hulu announced its 2014 programming lineup, including several new series that could help strengthen the site’s paid subscriber base. With more than five million subscribers, Hulu and Hulu Plus provide serious competition in the online streaming market, but restrictions by cable providers have put Hulu Plus at a disadvantage.
Even though Hulu is owned by cable provider Comcast’s NBCUniversal Television Group, Fox, and ABC, TV networks and cable providers have an interest in keeping TV subscribers around. To keep that incentive, Hulu delays posting new shows for a week for its non-paid viewers, although Hulu Plus subscribers can see these shows the next day. This is enough time for viewers to feel left out of workplace water cooler discussions.
Additionally, Hulu often limits the number of episodes of new series for its unpaid user base to the last few. For those who prefer the new trend of binge watching, this is a definite disadvantage for the company. Still, many of the episodes offered on Hulu aren’t available on Netflix or Amazon Prime until long after they’ve been posted on Hulu, if ever.
An Original Solution
Hulu has made a few uneventful forays into original programming, including The Wrong Mans, a BBC comedy that was available only to Hulu Plus subscribers. The streaming service has its own online news series, The Morning After, and The Awesome and Behind the Mask are each coming back for a second season this year.
But despite these mild successes, Hulu Plus has yet to have a blockbuster series as buzzworthy as Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. The service needs a big hit to win customers over from competitors and put Hulu Plus on top.
To launch a successful series, Hulu knows it will need more than just a big-name star. With the upcoming series Deadbeat, set to debut in April, Hulu calls upon Brad Pitt’s production company and writers Cody Heller and Brett Konner, who penned the show Wilfred.
Also getting buzz is the upcoming reality show parody series, The Hotwives of Orlando, which is from the studio that put together a parody of the Bachelor TV series. Hulu also continues its success with international series, bringing the Scandanavian TV show The Bridge to its American viewer base, as well as a Canadian reality show called The Next Step.
But are these shows enough to lure subscribers over? As an increasing number of viewers migrate to online streaming, most aren’t interested in signing up for more than one paid monthly subscription. This leads to a choice between Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime. All three services know that original content can be enough to win those monthly subscription dollars, but good series are only the beginning. Services have to continue to deliver good series month after month to keep subscribers coming back. This means delivering a new slate of programming every few months that will give viewers a reason to tune in.