Next TV Summit: Hulu Looking to Define Its Brand With Original Series

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — There are three things people go to Hulu for, according to Beatrice Springborn, the online video service’s head of originals: its library of videos, current programs and original series. While the first two are synonymous with Hulu, the OTT is still looking to craft its brand when it comes to originals,

“(People) see how Mad Men defined AMC or The Shield defined FX. We’re looking for shows that will define Hulu,” Springborn told Broadcasting & Cable editor Dade Hayes during a keynote Q&A session Thursday at the Next TV Summit & Expo Los Angeles at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.

Springborn, the former head of television for Storyline Entertainment, joined Hulu a year ago, and the streaming service has since ramped up production of its original series. “We knew we had to build this premium slate,” she said, highlighting three upcoming original series: Difficult People, Casual and The Way.

The Amy Poehler-produced Difficult People is a half-hour comedy starring Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner, both of Funny or Die and Fuse TV’s Billy on the Street. The eight-episode series premieres in August.

Up in the Air writer/director Jason Reitman is executive producing comedy Casual, written by Zander Lehmann.

“(Reitman) had not done TV before. For him, Hulu was this blank canvas to create a show,” Springborn said. “We had been tweaking the development process to make it more creator friendly.”

The Way, which was created by Jessica Goldberg, is executive produced by Jason Katims, who helmed Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. The show just landed Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul to star opposite True Detective alum Michelle Monaghan in the family drama.

Part of the rationale behind the trio of series, Springborn said, is to “launch some new voices with the in from more of a familiar voice,” with Katims, Poehler and Reitman “shepherding” these lesser-known writers. The hope is that these shows — whether through award nominations, buzz, viewership, new subscribers or any combination — build Hulu’s original brand.

“One thing we have to always remember is Hulu has always had TV in its DNA,” she said. “We didn’t start out as an online shopping site, we didn’t start out as a DVD company. We have always been a television company.”