Hulu announced in July 2012 its first sale of original content to a television network. The American company, known primarily for its television “catch-up viewing” service, has been pouring more resources into original programs. The initiative has already borne fruit. Broadcast rights for the movie review show Spoilers with Kevin Smith were acquired by Bell Media’s specialty station Space – even before the first program aired on Hulu. Earlier this year, Hulu contracted with FremantleMedia Enterprises to sell its content globally. Besides the political dramedy Battleground, launched in February, some 10 other original creative productions have been announced for the coming year.
Why it matters: The transformation from simple “redistributor” to content producer allows companies like Hulu to reduce their dependence on television producers and broadcasters. At the same time it diversifies their revenue streams.
Since Hulu was created by a consortium aiming for a second catch-up viewing window for television content, this becomes significant in terms of how major networks could see benefits in producing for an initial window on the web. Financial and brand equity risk is lower so new authors and narrative approaches can be tested. There’s also a chance to get higher returns on content – notably via international sales – as with Spoilers. Some time ago, Netflix announced the sale of its original Lilyhammer series to the BBC Four.
For Canada, this is further proof that the content acquisition market is heating up. If the price of content originally produced for online platforms is lower, it would facilitate acquisition by Canadian broadcasters of foreign content over original Canadian content. How the actual prices will compare, though, remains to be seen.