updated 06:05 pm EST, Sun January 15, 2012
Hulu starts up own online-only TV series
Hulu followed in Netflix's footsteps Sunday by launching its first fictional, original TV series. Battleground covers a fictional political campaign in Wisconsin and is produced by JD Walsh, 500 Days of Summer's Marc Webb, and Hagai Shaham. It should be followed up by more documentaries, including a second season of Morgan Spurlock's A Day in the Life and Richard Linklater's new Up to Speed.
The new virtual schedule starts with Battleground on February 14. Spurlock's project comes in March, and Linklater follows in the summer. Both free and Hulu Plus viewers will have access.
Hulu has planned to spend a heavy $500 million on content deals for 2012. It's not known how much of this is directed towards original content, but the revelation of two original shows and a continued third could see tens of millions devoted to the streaming-only content.
Its decision to expand online-only content is likely a hedge should studio deals go sour. Although Disney (ABC), News Corp. (Fox), and NBC (Comcast) all have a stake in Hulu, they also know they can hollow out the service if they decide to withdraw any of their shows. A deliberate Fox delay to shelter traditional TV may have already cost Hulu some viewers.
So far, only subscription services have tried the original content strategy. Amazon, Apple, and other services that offer pay-per-show either as a companion or an only service are still comfortable with selling others' work.