TCA: Hulu’s CEO Talks Kids Programming Ambitions, Premiere Strategy

Los Angeles – Hulu will have premiered 20 first-run titles by the end of this year and expects to double that number two years from now, and it’s almost inevitable some of those future titles will be in the kids space, acting Hulu CEO Andy Forssell told reporters at the TCA press tour here Wednesday.

“Kids is incredibly powerful on subscription VOD,” Forssell told Multichannel News after a session for four of Hulu’s upcoming series. “I think at some point it will actually make sense to do kids, we just haven’t chosen to do that next, and there’s nothing in the works. But I’ve got to believe in next year or two it will make sense… [I]t’s almost inevitable because it’s a natural chunk of value that people put a lot of weight on a subscription service. “

Children’s programs have been a focus of Hulu’s SVOD competitors, with Amazon on Wednesday greenlighting five more kids pilots  in addition to its three children’s series in production, and Netflix has a deal with DreamWorks Animation to premiere a slate of original series based on the studio’s franchise characters. Forssell said Hulu’s investment in the space would be determined by when it thinks it can do a project well.

“We started out with incredible respect for how hard it is to make TV,” he said. “Most TV turns out to be mediocre even though there are talented people involved. That’s why we don’t say let’s do 20 original series this year, because I don’t think we do a good job at it. You’ve got to build capability.”

Other highlights from Forssell’s Q&A with reporters included:

• Hulu will continue experimenting with different ways to roll out its original series. For the upcoming suspense-comedy The Wrong Mans, it will premiere an episode a week on the free service, while putting all six half-hour episodes up at once on Hulu Plus. For Seth Meyer’s animated superhero comedy The Awesomes, it will debut two episodes at once, then one a week because the show is still in production. “There’s no formula, I think it’s going to be different for different types of shows,” Forssell said. “It’s different for us than Netflix, where their roots are here’s a whole show. I think it would have felt odd for them to do something weekly. For us it was more of a debate. We have weekly TV. We have two axis [Hulu and Hulu Plus]. We have to think along both those axis.”

• Forssell sees Hulu Plus becoming more of a priority for the company in the coming years, but for now likes the balance of both a subscription and free service. “The economics of that business let us do a lot more, so over time it would make sense for us to advantage it,” he said. “But I don’t see any time soon seeing no exposure on the free service because we love exposure to the audience and we can drive a lot of revenue.”

• While Hulu has next-day rights to many broadcast shows, Forssell sees the model moving to an eight-day delay, like Fox has done for its programming, though he said Hulu doesn’t affect that strategy. He does, however, see a place for Hulu to help aggregate an authenticated audience. “We see a cool opportunity for Hulu there, but again we’re not going to make it happen, the content community and cable and MVPD community need to say TV Everywhere’s not moving as quickly as we hoped it would, but how do we change that vision,” he said. “It’s something we can help with if they want us to.”