Hulu is considered by many to be a pioneer in the world of online streaming, giving viewers an opportunity to watch television programs when and where they want. Powered by ads that, through consumer interaction, are tailored to the individual as opposed to a larger demographic, Hulu proved to the naysayers that the business model could be profitable.
Not content to merely rest on their laurels, the company has set their sights on something a bit more traditional: original programming.
According to the New York Times, this Thursday Hulu will stage what is known in the industry as an upfront, which is used to pitch new series to potential advertisers. This effectively transforms the company from a mere streaming site into a full-fledged online network, one that continues to buck the trends set forth by the likes of ABC, NBC, and CBS.
Additionally, Hulu will also announce that they have surpassed 2 million subscribers for their premium service, which gives users access to exclusive content, as well as more episodes of their favorite shows. With this many people willing to pony up some of their hard-earned cash for more content, it's not all that surprising that Hulu is ready to cast its line into riskier waters. After all, attempting to create original programming is a lot more problematic that simply acquiring the rights to established properties.
Already available for mass consumption is "Battleground", a documentary-style dramedy produced Hagai Shaham, Marc Webb, and veteran actor J.D. Walsh. The show focuses on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a group of campaign workers and volunteers who have devoted their lives to supporting a political candidate. Although it currently has a loyal cult following, the show has only one lone episode in Hulu's top 100 videos list. This further illustrates the fact that the company has a long way to go if they want to ensnare the sort of viewership that the networks pull in on a regular basis.
This summer, filmmaker Richard Linklater, the director of "School of Rock", "Slackers", and "Dazed and Confused", will bring his own docu-series to the proverbial table. "Up to Speed" follows Timothy "Speed" Levitch as he travels across the country, visiting historical sites, monuments, and landmarks that have been forgotten by the majority of the American public.
Linklater has nothing but praise for his star and the company that's giving his production a chance to shine. "Speed Levitch is one of the most effusive, articulate people I know, and one of America's funniest freethinkers. Hulu has a highly engaged and intellectually curious audience, and I'm excited to give them a glimpse of Speed's unique and idiosyncratic worldview as we take the concept of a travel show and turn it on its head."
Also making the rounds is Morgan "Super Size Me" Spurlock's reality program "A Day in the Life", which gives viewers an exclusive opportunity to peak into the daily routines of celebrities, millionaires, and businessmen.
"As a filmmaker, I think the partnership with Hulu has been an innovative and valuable way for me to connect my stories with an engaged and passionate audience. The response to the first season of 'A Day in the Life' on Hulu was overwhelmingly positive, and I am thrilled I get the chance to share more 24-hour snapshots of extraordinary people in a second season," Spurlock said in an official press release. The show is currently in its second season.
Of course, Hulu isn't the only streaming game in town that's looking to make a splash with original content. Netflix already has the Steve Van Zandt crime drama "Lilyhammer" on tap, and the company plans to bring brand new episodes of "Arrested Development" and, possibly, "Reno 911" to the service in the near future. "Hostel" director Eli Roth intends to bestow his upcoming horror/mystery "Hemlock Grove" upon the service, as well. Rumors are also circulating that Amazon is preparing to unleash its own brand of original programming.
Although Hulu has plenty to offer those who don't mind watching television shows online, it remains to be seen if this stab at original programming will translate into revenue. Regardless, one thing remains certain: Hulu continues to be a key player in the evolving online streaming landscape. If these gambles prove to be profitable, chances are other like-minded websites will follow suit.