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.
E-sports are one of the few where the TV and digital rights aren’t sewn up for years to come, and so they’ve become a battleground for big digital players, with Amazon buying Twitch and YouTube now stealing one of its most high-profile, high-quality content deals. This is a big step for YouTube, which has dabbled with various bits of live sports in the past but has never had a really high-profile deal. It’s obviously not going to deliver NFL-like viewing numbers, but it’s a good test of YouTube’s commitment to live video and sports.