Hulu confirms live programming, boasts 33% growth in subscribers, announces renewals at its 2016 upfront presentation


In front of a packed house at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York Wednesday morning, Hulu used its 2016 upfront event to address reports that it will soon stream live television content. The video streaming service also announced the renewals of “The Mindy Project” and “The Path” at the upfront and offered a sneak peek at forthcoming content, including a Beatles documentary.

Hulu will offer live programming

Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins kicked off the leadership’s remarks at the upfront by confirming recent reports that the streaming site will begin offering subscribers live programming from broadcast and cable brands. “This means our viewers will be able to enjoy live sports, news and events, all in real-time, without a traditional cable or satellite subscription. We’re going to fuse the best of linear television and on-demand in a deeply personalized experience, optimized for the contemporary, always-connected television fan.”

Hulu’s growth

In his remarks, Mike also shared some numbers illustrating Hulu’s recent success and growth. For starters, Hulu boasts 30 million unique viewers, and 70 percent of Hulu’s audience streams content via the site in their living rooms.

“I’m proud to report that over the past year, Hulu has grown 33 percent,” he shared with the audience. “By the end of this month, we’ll have reached 12 million subscribers.”

He also noted that hours per viewer are up 30 percent and total streams are up 78 percent. “By nearly every standard and metric of engagement, Hulu is on the rise and there are no signs of slowing down,” said Mike.

‘In the Know’ campaign

While data continues to grow in prominence, it’s important to remember the relationship people have with TV content, according to Jenny Wall, SVP of Marketing. This means it’s essential to understand not only what they watch, but why they watch as well.

“We want to create a strong relationship with our viewers so that Hulu and our experience become a natural part of their lives,” Jenny said during her remarks. She added that Hulu’s content has become “a cultural currency” for the streaming service’s subscribers. This is the driving idea behind Hulu’s new brand campaign, “In the Know,” which will start next week. Jenny gave the audience a preview of two of these spots, both showing humorous scenarios where someone lies about having watched a show or certain episodes just so they could be part of the conversation.

“What I love about this campaign is that it speaks to both a human truth and just how important TV is to us – that we’re actually wiling to lie about it just to connect with people.”

Ad innovations

Peter Naylor, SVP of Advertising, continued the upfront by announcing a number of partnerships, including one with BrightLine to bring interactive ads seen on desktop and mobile devices to the living room TV. This will bring a TV platform solution that’s measured and sold like a digital play, he explained.

Hulu is also partnering with Millward Brown to launch an enhanced ad effectiveness tool to bring insights like ad favorability, message recall and purchase intent to over-the-top programming consumed in a living room environment.

Peter also announced a virtual reality partnership with Live Nation to bring exclusive content featuring music artists. This will build on Hulu’s VR app, which launched in March.

“Our research shows, on average, that consumers engage with ordinary VR apps for just two minutes at a time,” he said. “The average time spent with our VR app was 12 minutes, so we’re getting the experience right, straight out of the gate.”

New and returning content

Hulu also welcomed Mindy Kaling onto the stage to announce the renewal of her Hulu-exclusive show, “The Mindy Project,” for its fifth season. Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan and Hugh Dancy, the leading actors in another Hulu original “The Path,” also made an appearance to announce the renewal of the show for its second season.

Craig Erwich, SVP of Content, ended the upfront with a look forward to some of Hulu’s future programming, including “Shut Eye,” which will debut in August; “Chance,” featuring Hugh Laurie”; “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which will debut in 2017; another Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog election special; and “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week,” a Hulu documentary film directed by Ron Howard.

To learn more about Hulu’s upfront presentation, read the official press release. Hulu is jointly owned by 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Company and Comcast’s NBCUniversal.