‘FX on Hulu’ Bowing March 2

When Disney last year announced it would transition FX Networks programming to Hulu, including edgier original content, the strategy was considered a shrewd competitive move designed to elevate the SVOD platform’s status against perennial frontrunner Netflix.

Speaking Jan. 9 at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., John Landgraf, chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions shed new light on the move, including when 1,600 episodes of FX programming would begin arriving on Hulu: March 2.

Cate Blanchett

Original programs, which will debut over the course of several weeks, include miniseries “Devs,” “Mrs. America” with Cate Blanchett playing anti-feminist Phyliss Schlafly, “A Teacher” (Kate Mara) and “The Old Man,” starring Oscar winner Jeff Bridges.

“We see this as a transformative opportunity for the FX brand,” Landgraf said.

While most existing FX (and FXX) programming will appear on Hulu, notable exception includes “American Crime Story,” which remains on Netflix due to a prior licensing agreement.”

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“Nearly the entire FX brand will be available in one place,” Landgraf said.

The executive said FX had peaked with about 85 million pay-TV households and considers the collaboration with Hulu’s 30 million households a positive. Working together with Hulu CEO Randy Freer, “FX on Hulu” will debut original shows the day after their TV broadcast.

New comedies on “FX on Hulu,” include “Breeders,” bowing March 2, and “Dave,” debuting March 4.

“Both our brands together will make Hulu a stronger platform than either could alone,” Landgraf said. “I think [the combination is] going to make the FX brand even more valuable.”

Hulu CEO Eyes Ad Growth, Clarity Under Disney Ownership

With Disney agreeing to acquire Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu, the subscription streaming video service with 28 million subscribers is now under the direction of one company instead of four (Disney, Fox, Comcast, WarnerMedia).

In an interview with CNBC, Hulu CEO Randy Freer said consolidation among the platform’s corporate owners offers increased clarity on the service’s objectives, strategic planning and voice going forward.

Randy Freer

“We’re super excited about the opportunity,” Freer said.

The executive added that Disney’s plan to incorporate Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ into a possible SVOD bundle sold to consumers and distributors offers additional opportunities.

“I think it’s another way for Hulu to extend and grow its already fast-growing subscriber base,” Freer said.

With Hulu the only major SVOD service streaming advertising on its basic subscription plan, Freer said marketers are looking for consumer access in over-the-top video ecosystem dominated by ad-free players Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

“I think the opportunity at Hulu … with huge audiences … long engagement times, a young audience, 20-to- 25 years younger than network television … is a huge for brands to come in and talk to the consumers that they’re looking to reach the most,” he said.

At the same time, Freer cautioned that marketing Hulu as a service with half the ads of broadcast TV is not “okay anymore.”

“We have to find new ways to integrate brands into the ad,” he said.

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Indeed, Hulu has launched a number of new ad formats, including “pause ads,” which displays a static ad when a viewer pauses programming; and “Friends with Benefits” featuring “Easter eggs” hidden on the site that offer special deals from brand partners when clicked.

“There [are] all kinds of ways to make the customer experience on Hulu better than any of our competitors,” Freer said. “And we can’t forget that the most important thing to consumers is choice. What’s more important is giving them the option of an ad service and the option of an ad-free service so they can determine what’s the best experience to view things.”

Hulu Touts 28 Million Subscribers, 58 Million Users

Hulu May 1 disclosed it has 28 million subscribers, including 26.8 million paid and 1.3 million promotional accounts. The service claims 58 million “subscribers” when adding in password sharing. Hulu ended 2018 with 25 million subs.

Netflix ended its most-recent fiscal period with 60.2 million paid subs in the United States, excluding 1.56 million free trials.

The SVOD service co-owned by Disney and Comcast revealed the data during its Hulu ‘19 Presentation at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, N.Y.

“In today’s direct-to-consumer world, viewers are demanding better when it comes to TV — from the user experience to their content choices to the advertising,” CEO Randy Freer said in a statement. “Hulu’s continued growth, as well as the shows and initiatives announced today, reflect our deep investment in product, programming, brand, customer experience and business strategy to ensure that with Hulu, consumers can connect with the stories they love, at the right time and price, on any device.”

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Hulu’s strong uptick in subscribers comes following years of minimal sub gains as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video saw their sub bases grow exponentially.

With Disney assuming majority control of Hulu following its $71.3 billion acquisition of 2oth Century Fox Film Corp., the company is staking much of its over-the-top video future on Hulu and pending SVOD service Disney+.

Separately, Hulu said it has expanded its Marvel partnership for two new live-action series, with “Marvel’s Ghost Rider” and “Marvel’s Helstrom” slated to debut on Hulu in 2020.

The series come after Netflix ended its run of original Marvel TV series.

Hulu is also partnering with Vox Media Studios, David Chang’s Majordomo Media, and Chrissy Teigen’s Suit & Thai Productions to develop and produce a slate of food-centric programming.

Nicole Kidman and Emmy-winning producer Bruna Papandrea will adapt the latest book by New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty, Nine Perfect Strangers, for Hulu via their respective production companies.

Emmy-winning producer David E. Kelley and John Henry Butterworth will co-showrun and co-write the series.

Disney Re-Names BAMTech ‘Disney Streaming Services,’ Outlines Direct-to-Consumer Strategy

Disney April 11 announced it has renamed its BAMTech backend technical company “Disney Streaming Services” as part of the 96-year-old media giant’s expansion into direct-to-consumer business.

Acquired for $2.5 billion in 2017 from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, BAMTech has powered numerous OTT services, including HBO Now, MLB.tv, PGA Tour Live, ESPN+, and NHL.tv, among others.

“This is an exciting day for the entire Disney family. It is also a challenging time,” CEO Bob Iger told attendees at the start of a three-hour investor day presentation in Los Angeles.

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The executive reiterated that Disney is entering the DTC ecosystem from a “position of strength, confidence and unbridled optimism.”

Iger said Disney is banking its future in part on digital distribution, including a new corporate segment — Direct-to-Consumer & International — featuring the pending Disney+ SVOD service, ESPN+, Hulu, Hulu with Live TV and Asia’s Hotstar ad-supported VOD platform with 300 million actively monthly users.

Kevin Mayer, chairman of DTC & International, said Disney’s foray into digital is based in part of a projected 1.1 billion high-speed Internet households worldwide by 2020 compared to 700 million in 2015.

Mayer said there will be 810 million DTC paid subscribers globally by the end of 2020 — growing 30% annually. With 1.2 billion hours of video streamed daily projected by 2020 compared to 260 million hours in 2015 — up 50% annually over a 10-year period.

[DTC] is becoming a crowded marketplace, in which brands matter more than ever,” Mayer said. “We have the brands that matter most when it comes to great entertainment.”

Mayer said Disney three domestic DTC products — Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu — would target different market segments as standalone services and “likely be bundled to create even more value to consumers.”

Disney is eyeing a Latin America launch for ESPN+ as well.

Launching in November, Disney+ will feature catalog, current and original content from Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and National Geographic — the latter due to Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox.

Mayer said Hulu, which Disney assumed majority ownership stake following the Fox acquisition, represents Disney’s most-established DTC product.

“We’re actively evaluating international rollout strategies for [Hulu],” he said.

Disney said Hulu was the fast-growing domestic SVOD service in 2018, ending the year with 25 million subscribers since launching in 2008. Online TV service — Hulu with Live TV — launched in 2018. Viewing increased by 75%.

“Hulu is going to give consumers the right product at the right price,” said Hulu CEO Randy Freer.

Hulu Tops 25 Million Subs

Hulu on Jan. 8 announced it added 8 million subscribers in 2018 to bring its year-end total to 25 million subscribers across its subscription on demand (SVOD) and live TV plans in the United States.

That’s a  47% year-over-year increase in subscribers for Hulu, although the subscription streamer did not break out how many subscribers only use its SVOD service.

“Consumers have spoken loudly about their desire for more choice and control in their TV experience. They are seeing the enormous benefits of streaming, they’re deciding which content and brands are most important to them, and they’re choosing Hulu,” Hulu CEO Randy Freer said in a statement.

Hulu said one of the more notable viewing trends it saw in 2018 was that consumers place a great deal of value on having a comprehensive, flexible viewing experience. Viewers who subscribe to Hulu + Live TV spend 50%  of their time watching on-demand or recorded programming. Accordingly, Hulu invested significantly in securing exclusive content and enhancing its streaming technology to support a superior experience across its live and on-demand plans.

Also in 2018, Hulu expanded its on-demand library to more than 85,000 episodes in 2018, adding more current series to its roster including “The Good Doctor,” “Killing Eve,” “The Orville,” “Superstore” and “Grown-ish.”

Hulu announced it grew its advertising revenue more than 45% to nearly $1.5 billion – the most in the Hulu’s history – and increased its advertiser base by 50%.

The median age of a Hulu viewer is 32 – nearly 25 years younger than the average broadcast TV viewer (56) – and the average annual household income of a Hulu viewer rose to $93,000 in 2018, according to the company.

Binge viewing is prevalent on Hulu. Looking at the top 100 shows on Hulu, over half of all viewing sessions consist of three or more episodes of the same series, the company announced.

Following its two Golden Globe wins for Season 1, Hulu’s hit drama “The Handmaid’s Tale” returned in Season 2 with a 76% gain in total consumption compared to Season 1.

“Castle Rock” was Hulu’s highest performing new original of 2018 and was the second-highest performing Hulu Original this year, behind “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Hulu Eyeing 23 Million Subs by Year’s End

Hulu is reportedly expected to top 23 million subscribers by the end of the year, according to comments made Dec. 4 by CEO Randy Freer at the Business Insider’s Ignition confab in New York.

The SVOD service co-owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and WarnerMedia includes online TV platform Hulu Live with TV as part of its subscriber growth. The tally suggests Hulu added more than 3 million subs since it disclosed reaching 20 million subs at its upfronts content presentation earlier this year.

“I think our numbers will be really impressive,” Freer said, as reported by TechCrunch.com. “But we need to get 30, 40, 50 million homes in a way that we can scale.”

Indeed, even reaching an improbable 50 million subs would keep Hulu seven million shy of Netflix’s Q3 domestic count.

“Netflix has solidified their place for now,” said Freer. “Everybody else is going to fight out over what those four or five other selections are.”

Hulu has achieved one distinction even Amazon Prime Video can’t match: “The Handmaid’s Tale” remains a weekly Top 10 streaming favorite, according to Parrot Analytics.

Launched in 2008, Hulu is the only streaming service that offers both ad-supported ($7.99) and commercial-free ($11.99) subscription streaming options. Hulu with Live TV ($39.99) bowed in May, reaching 1 million subs in September.

The service features libraries of network TV series and movies; in addition to original content such as Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning drama “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Emmy-nominated series “I Love You, America With Sarah Silverman,” Emmy-nominated series “The Looming Tower,” “Future Man,” “Marvel’s Runaways,” “Castle Rock,” “The First” and Golden Globe-nominated comedy “Casual,” as well as upcoming series “Catch-22,” “Ramy” and “Little Fires Everywhere.”

 

Hulu Hires Heather Moosnick as SVP of Content Partnerships

Hulu Oct. 30 announced the hiring of former YouTube TV executive Heather Moosnick as SVP, content partnerships.

Moosnick assumes the vacant content partnerships position following the departure of Chief Content Officer Joel Stillerman last summer. She begins Nov. 12  reporting to CEO Randy Freer.

Craig Erwich, SVP, content, remains head of original content, alos reporting to Freer.

“Heather is a highly strategic, creative and relationship-oriented executive who has spent her entire career driving change and innovation,” Freer said in a statement. “As Hulu looks to transition television from a gatekeeper-driven experience to one that’s led by the consumer, Heather’s leadership and fearless approach to evolving antiquated business rules make her a perfect fit for our team.”

At Google/YouTube, Moosnick spearheaded global business development for the launch of online TV service YouTube TV, including affiliate and network agreements. Previously, she worked with record label relationships for the launches of YouTube Music and YouTube Premium.

Hulu Revamps Management, Company Structure

Looking to shake up its internal management structure, Hulu has hired a new chief technology officer, its first chief data officer and realigned the subscription streaming video platform into four operating segments, among other changes.

Notable in the reorganization is the departure of chief content officer Joe Stillerman and Tim Connolly, SVP of partnerships and distribution. Stillerman had been with Hulu for just a year after joining the company from AMC Networks. Also leaving is Ben Smith, SVP, experience, who is retiring in July.

Hulu is conducting a search for a head of the new content partnerships group and is eliminating the CCO position.

“Ben, Tim and Joel have all played a significant role in getting Hulu to the strong position it is in today. They will forever be a part of Hulu’s success story, and we wish them the very best in their next endeavors,” CEO Randy Freer said in a statement.

The company’s original programming and relationships with creators, producers and studios will now operate as a dedicated business function led by SVP of content, Craig Erwich, who reports to Freer at the company’s Santa Monica, Calif.-based headquarters.

Other business segments include technology & product, “subscriber journey,” advertising, data & analytics. All of Hulu’s shared services functions — finance, legal, corporate communications and talent & organization — will continue operating as usual, reporting directly to Freer.

Hulu hired Jaya Kolhatkar, former SVP, global data and analytics platform for Walmart, as chief data officer. Kolhatkar, who begins July 2, will be responsible for elevating Hulu’s customer intelligence, implementing data governance and pushing the SVOD’s decision making based on data.

Dan Phillips, former COO at TiVo, becomes Hulu’s chief technology officer, responsible for aligning the company’s technical and product strategy. Philipps begins today (June 4).

Chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell assumes responsibility for “subscriber journey,” which includes acquisition, engagement and retention, to viewer experience and research, across all of Hulu’s business operations. In addition, this group will now oversee Hulu’s subscriber partnerships, including its relationships with Spotify and Sprint.

The advertising sales group continues to report to Peter Naylor, SVP of ad sales.

Hulu, which last month topped 20 million subscribers, continues to spend big attempting to bridge the gap with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

It lost $920 million in 2017 compared to a loss of $531 million in 2016. The fiscal loss is reportedly projected to reach $1.7 billion this year as original content (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” Marvel’s “Runaways,” “Future Man,” and “The Doozers”) spending skyrockets.

The losses are primarily driven by continued investments in programming and marketing by Hulu’s four corporate parents 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Co., Comcast and Time Warner.