The bulk of Hulu's offerings are still reruns from TV, but to compete with subscription-based TV services like Amazon and Netflix, it's investing heavily in original content. While Netflix and Amazon don't offer advertising, the three are often compared because they offer TV and movie-length content on demand.
During its upfront, it unveiled new programming including "Chance" starring Hugh Laurie and a new "Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog" series. It also brought out the stars from its successful shows, like Mindy Kaling, Aaron Paul and Amy Poehler.
In addition to slate of 30-minute comedies and one-hour dramas, Hulu also announced Hulu Documentary Films. First up is the exclusive acquisition of "The Beatles: Eight Days A Week," a new documentary about the Fab Four directed by Howard. Naylor confirmed it will have a limited theatrical run, which is one of the steps toward qualifying for an Oscar.
Insiders say an Oscar and popular shows could bring new level of status to Hulu. It could also backfire.
"Because they are in the originals (TV shows) business, they have placed themselves in a very unique competition," said Charlie Fiordalis, chief digital officer at media agency Media Storm. "That leaves them open to huge losses or huge gains based on the shows they have produced. Look at Yahoo: If (it) had three back-to-back hits, it would be in a very different position."
Hulu's 12 million subscriber base pales in comparison with Netflix, which says it had a little over 81 million subscribers as of Q1 of 2016. It's behind Amazon Prime, which has about 54 million subscribers, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
And because of this desire for more original programming to stand out, there are more TV shows being produced than ever by digital, broadcast and cable networks, creating more competition. Vulture reports that between 2009 and 2015, the number of scripted shows went from a little over 200 to 409 in 2015.
"They're a fantastic business, but they face a challenge from the likes of Netflix. … The appetite for commissioning original shows is large, which makes it hard to come up against competition sustainably," said Nick Bourne, chief commercial officer at Bigballs Media.
Fiordalis said Media Storm currently places Hulu in a hybrid category, competing against the budgets for video-on-demand advertising and addressable programmatic (or automated) TV ad buys. But he can see the argument that Hulu should be placed in the TV category since it offers the same 15- and 30-second TV spots that broadcast and cable networks have.
Still, Hulu still must prove it has the reach of the traditional networks, Fiordalis pointed out. About 18.4 million people watched AMC's "The Walking Dead" season finale in April. Last year, the most watched television series, "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS averaged over 21 million viewers per episode.
Winning big awards is a step, but it may not help that much at getting TV ad dollars.
"Awards provide clout, but I think commercially successful properties probably drive the most amount of value," said Fiordalis. "I would rather have 'Modern Family' and create that and own that than an indie film that wins an Oscar. It's worth 100 times more."
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