While continuously facing off against Netflix and Amazon, Hulu has a new target in play: Cable.
Amid an optimistic NewFront presentation this morning, the SVOD made it clear that it aims to be the destination of choice in consumers’ living rooms, promising more premium content and children’s programming.
CEO Mike Hopkins announced that the SVOD had delivered on its 2015 promise to break out, and that 2016 will bring even larger and bolder developments for the company. Rather than pouring its resources into its mobile apps, Hulu is focusing on the 70% of its audience that watches Hulu content on the small screen through smart and connected TV devices, such as Apple and Roku. And in order to position itself as a stronger competitor to traditional cable, Hulu will begin offering live sports, event coverage and news programming in 2017.
Hulu’s current subscriber count now totals more than 12 million─representing 33% growth from last year. Viewers are also watching 30% more content than they did last year, according to Hopkins’ presentation.
Of course, Hulu’s subscriber count still pales in comparison to its competitors. Netflix boasts 47 million US subscribers alone, with a total of 81.5 million worldwide. And while Amazon does not reveal its numbers for Prime members, a January report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that 54 million US customers subscribe to Amazon Prime (although that does not indicate how many customers regularly watch Amazon’s Prime Video SVOD, which was only recently unbundled from the Amazon Prime service).
Aside from bolstering its slate of originals, the SVOD will continue to broaden its content offerings across all verticals, including children’s programming. The SVOD recently acquired the exclusive US SVOD rights to Curious George, and among its 2015 acquisitions were the US SVOD rights to Disney Junior’s hit animated series Doc McStuffins and Bunnytown, as well as Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball, Steven Universe, Over the Garden Wall, Clarence, Ben 10, Adventure Time and Regular Show.
Of course, the purpose of Hulu’s NewFront was to sell itself to advertisers—another factor that sets it apart from Amazon and Netflix, which offer all of their content ad-free.
Although Hulu introduced an ad-free service in September 2015 (US$11.99 compared to its US$7.99 ad-free option), Hopkins reported that six months into the launch, the majority of Hulu’s customers still opted for the ad-supported version. At that time, Hulu had already been intensifying its acquisitions activity on the kids side of its business from within the US, as well as outside for its ad-free kids section.
Aside from advertising and programming, Hulu also unveiled a new marketing strategy. CMO Jenny Wall announced that the company has more than doubled it marketing spend and has launched a new brand campaign, “In the Know,” which focuses on encouraging viewers to catch up on TV shows.
Naylor also talked up Hulu’s recent expansion into VR, reporting that the average time spent on Hulu’s app is 12 minutes. According to Naylor, the average time spent on all VR apps is two minutes.
There was no mention of international expansion, which should come as no surprise. Unlike its SVOD competitors, Hulu has made no clear plans to expand beyond the US market.