Company / division: Hulu
As with this morning’s Facebook item, I’m covering three separate news items relating to Hulu here. Firstly, Bloomberg reports that Hulu has paid top dollar to acquire some TV shows which might historically have gone to Netflix, notably NBC’s This Is Us, Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, but also older shows including NYPD Blue, The Bernie Mac Show, Will & Grace, and 30 Rock. It’s also acquired rights for some e-sports, a “sports” category that’s also attracted interest from other big names including Amazon and Facebook, and is temporarily lowering its entry-level price from $8 to $6.
Hulu has already announced that it’ll spend $2.5 billion this year on shows, and that increased budget seems to be allowing it to be more competitive in bidding for some of the bigger traditional TV shows and thereby flesh out its lineup with both more of the current season stuff it’s known for and more library content. It’s helped also by the fact that its sometimes ambivalent network backers seem to have decided it’s one of their best shots at preventing a Netflix hegemony. E-sports have small but dedicated and growing audiences, and represent one of Hulu’s first forays into sports, albeit a very small one – just 15 hours in total. And the price drop seems designed to attract new customers at a busy time of year for traditional TV series premieres, and also to act as an on-ramp for Hulu’s much more expensive live TV service, which it’s just begun promoting aggressively. Hulu still has a long way to go to achieve Netflix-like levels of awareness and especially adoption – a survey I ran earlier this year suggested it has about a quarter of Netflix’s penetration in the US – but it’s clearly keen to change that.
Online Pay TV Streaming Services Have Few Subscribers (Oct 4, 2017)
In a blog post I wrote in August about cord cutting in Q2 2017, I noted that there were likely around 3 million online pay TV streaming subscribers as of June, compared to around 4 million subscribers that had cut the traditional pay TV cord during the period those services had been available. The Information today reports that there are around 3.4 million of those online pay TV subscribers, including 2 million at Sling, half a million at AT&T’s DirecTV Now and slightly less than that at Sony’s PlayStation Vue, with just 200k at Hulu’s new live service, with a few more at YouTube. The Information uses this information to suggest that these services haven’t yet been all that popular, and that’s certainly one way to look at it, but given that until this year they mostly either came from unknown brands like Sling or were heavily limited in terms of their mainstream device support like PlayStation Vue, I’d bet we’ll see some faster growth going forward with the entry of Hulu and YouTube into the market, and I’d argue that AT&T’s rapid growth to the same scale as Sony in a much shorter period is evidence of that. With both Hulu and YouTube gearing up for big promotions in the coming weeks for their services, that growth will accelerate further. Meanwhile, cord cutting is also accelerating, and that acceleration is likely to be exacerbated by this growth in streaming options, leaving cable networks with fewer subscribers as users both cut and shave the cord. None of this is great news for the traditional TV industry.
via The Information
Last night’s Emmy awards once again provided an interesting set of insights into the winners and losers among both traditional and online streaming TV properties. HBO won the most overall awards with 29, while Netflix beat out the other streaming services with 20. Hulu did much better than in the past, almost entirely because of one show – The Handmaid’s Tale – which has been extremely well reviewed but may also have garnered additional favor by being deemed particularly relevant in today’s rather dystopian real-world political scene. That’s a huge coup for Hulu as Netflix has never won best drama, but it would be dangerous to read too much into it, given Hulu’s lack of past or broader success. Netflix won twice as many awards overall, including wins for multiple shows in different categories. Amazon, meanwhile, took away just two wins. In addition to HBO, NBC did well among the traditional TV companies, coming in third behind Netflix, while ABC, Fox, and CBS all took home single digit trophies. It still feels like HBO and Netflix are the real powerhouses when it comes to high-budget, high-quality TV, but the Hulu wins show that others in the streaming world aren’t being shut out entirely, which should be heartening to Apple and others coming into the game late but with big budgets and ambitions.
Hulu Will Spend $2.5 Billion on Content in 2017 (Sep 14, 2017)
Variety has a quick run-down of some new data from App Annie about the usage of various mobile video apps in the twelve months to July 2017, and it shows YouTube to be dominant in that category, with 80% of total time spent for the top 10 apps. Also notable is that YouTube grossed more than Hulu on the strength of its YouTube Red subscription service, suggesting that it may be doing better than widely perceived, though that may also reflect YouTube’s role as a more mobile-centric platform while many users may pay for their Hulu subscriptions through a computer or TV box. Also worth noting is that over half the top ten video apps come from non-traditional TV brands – only HBO, Starz, CBS, and Showtime hit the top ten, while the rest are all digital-native brands. Also notable is the fact that all of those traditional TV apps have pursued the same successful strategy of opening up their entire libraries for digital rather than trying to create a digital service that’s complementary to traditional TV – that’s the winning strategy in this space, and Disney should take note as it readies an ESPN direct to consumer service for early next year.
Netflix and HBO Lead Emmy Nominations (Jul 13, 2017)
YouTube and Netflix Dominate Teens’ Video Viewing (May 2, 2017)
Netflix still has a huge lead in the streaming wars, but Hulu’s smaller service has loyal users (on TV sets) – Recode (Mar 22, 2017)
I added the parenthetical in the headline because that’s the key caveat here, as the piece itself points out. There’s a great chart in here comparing penetration of TV viewing over WiFi by various services with the average hours spent viewing those services in households that use them, and it highlights Netflix’s dominance as both the most popular and most used service within that narrow viewing category. Hulu does well on time spent too, though with far fewer households, while Amazon Video comes bottom of the four, and YouTube has reasonably high penetration but low time spent (again, on TVs in homes). Obviously, all four services can be viewed outside of homes too, and it’s YouTube in particular would score much higher in a mobile-only comparison. But for the other three services, in-home viewing on a TV is a critical segment of the audience, and it’s worth noting the order on that basis: Netflix first, Hulu second, and Amazon third. Sadly, there’s no traditional content in here for comparison’s sake – much higher percentages take pay TV services in the US than any of these services, and time spent is quite a bit higher too. The full Comscore report (linked below) is well worth reading in its entirety – lots of other interesting data points.
Hulu unveils new website for upcoming live TV service, shows off new UI, more – 9to5Google (Mar 16, 2017)
There’s not a ton of new detail here – Hulu briefed reporters on a lot of this back at CES, but there are a couple of new tidbits. Notably, it sounds like the DVR function will feel a lot less DVR-y and more like an online read-it-later service for video, which sounds a lot more user friendly than a lot of the cloud DVRs I’ve seen. The multiple simultaneous streams and profiles are interesting too – that makes it much more of a pay TV replacement than most of what we’ve seen. I have to say, as a cord cutter, I’m probably more excited about Hulu’s entry in this market than all the others I’ve seen. Big questions, as usual: local content and whether/where it will be available, and which channels get left out to hit the usual $30-40 price bracket.
Hulu Live TV Service Won’t Have Viacom Networks – Variety (Mar 10, 2017)
As I mentioned in the context of the YouTube TV launch announcement a couple of weeks ago, every one of these streaming pay TV services has to make a set of sacrifices from the traditional TV lineup in order to hit the target $35-40 price point. In the case of Hulu’s service, it looks like Viacom’s channels will be among those sacrificed, which is in keeping with both the end of Hulu’s recent video on demand deal with Viacom and with Sony’s dropping of the Viacom channels a while ago, as well as their absence from YouTube’s service. DirecTV Now and Sling both continue to carry at least some Viacom channels, but those channels have become less and less popular over recent years as flagships MTV and Comedy Central have faded in cultural relevance. There’s something of a revival going on at MTV at the moment under Viacom’s new leadership, but these are still probably the easiest set of major channels for a new service to live without. Based on what I’ve seen so far of Hulu’s service, it looks like being one of the more compelling offerings to launch, particularly if it bundles in the traditional Hulu VoD service.
Further evidence here that if tech is to disrupt TV, it’s often going to do it without the support of the traditional TV industry, which is in some cases starting to pull back its content to its own platforms while leaving others like Hulu out in the cold. Viacom’s new CEO said on its recent earnings call that the company would be pulling back from SVOD services, and this is the first sign that he meant what he said. This is also the single biggest reason for SVOD providers to invest in a big way in original content which can’t be yanked away due to skittishness on the part of content providers. Hulu is a unique animal in this space, with several of its its owners among its biggest content providers, but it’s still vulnerable to this kind of thing, and the other big streamers even more so.