Early in its life, Hulu found huge success in acquiring and promoting itself as the home for old fare such as “Seinfeld” and “The Golden Girls.” But those classic libraries have become even more valuable for streaming services — Netflix paid at least $500 million to grab exclusive rights to “Seinfeld,” while soon-to-launch HBO Max will now share “Rick and Morty” with Hulu, while shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will co-exist on both Hulu and NBCU’s new Peacock service.
Speaking to reporters at the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Friday, Hulu scripted originals senior VP Craig Erwich noted how the availability of certain shows will be shifting around over the next few years, but downplayed the impact of losing exclusive rights to those shows.
“I don’t know that exclusivity is paramount,” he said of the library shows. “One show does not make a service. What’s important for us is to have product and offering that offers people as many shows as possible. We’re focused on total engagement — do we have enough content for somebody to watch when they want to watch? Do we have enough content to satisfy various moods people have over the course of the day?”
Erwich said Hulu will focus on the exclusivity of its original fare in the coming years as the so-called “streaming wars” heat up.
“For us to say ‘Little Fires Everywhere,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘Dollface’ are only on Hulu is really what we think is important,” he said.
Asked to differentiate Hulu from Peacock, which will also offer multiple tiers (including a limited free option, an ad-supported full version and a more costly commercial-free offering), Erwich touted the “multiple ways to assemble [a Hulu] package.” That includes ad-ons such as HBO and Showtime, as well as its live TV offering.
“That flexibility, that’s where we think we’re winning,” he said.
Following up on FX’s “FX on Hulu” announcement, in which original FX series such as “Mrs. America” and “Devs” will air only on Hulu, Erwich touted “the powerful combinations these two brands” but said there was no plan at the moment to create a similar portal with Freeform or other Disney outlets. (NatGeo already has a similar setup with Disney Plus.)
Hulu did team up with Freeform, however, to license three STX Films titles: “Hustlers,” “The Upside” and “I Feel Pretty.” The films will simultaneously debut on Freeform and Hulu, starting with the Amy Schumer comedy “I Feel Pretty” in August 2020. “The Upside,” starring Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman, and “Hustlers,” starring Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez, will follow.
As for the decision not to move forward with more installments of its “Veronica Mars” revival, Erwich said Hulu was nonetheless “thrilled with the entire ‘Veronica Mars’ experience that we brought to our viewers. It was really interesting to see — we saw a lot of new people discover the show for the first time. I think for fans of the show, the opportunity to check back in was exciting, generated a lot of social conversation.
“That collection, the journey of ‘Veronica Mars’ in terms of TV episodes, it exists on Hulu now and will exist for a long time. So there’s still a lot of ‘Veronica Mars’ for people to check out. We’re encouraging people to watch it. We think that’s a satisfying narrative experience for them.”
Among other projects, Erwich said Hulu has not yet made a determination on additional seasons of “Reprisal,” “Castle Rock” and “Light as a Feather.” Earlier, it renewed second seasons of comedy “Dollface” and drama “Wu-Tang: An American Saga.”
Hulu also ordered a new comedy starring Steve Martin and Martin Short, co-created by Martin and John Hoffman and executive produced by Dan Fogelman (“This Is Us”).
“Success in streaming is not just about how many people watched this show or how many awards or how much you paid for this library series,” Erwich said. “Those are fleeting moments. It’s about building a consistent brand.”