At CES 2018, Hulu Touts Its Content and Subscription Growth

At CES 2018, Hulu made a splash promoting its growing subscriber base and productions. The company also made a point of saying that Netflix’s plan to spend $8 billion on content this year, a number much mentioned at CES, is no great shakes. That’s because Hulu, which is owned by Comcast NBCUniversal, Disney/ABC, 21st Century Fox and minority investor Time Warner, which owns HBO and CNN, has access to $20 billion to $30 billion worth of content. The company recently won an Emmy for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

CNET quotes Hulu chief executive Randy Freer, who said at CES 2018, that, “way too much is thrown around about $8 billion,” noting that the aggregate of content from Hulu’s owners is much bigger than Netflix’s. Freer said that “The Handmaid’s Tale” has driven new subscriptions. Bloomberg reports that Hulu said “subscribers soared to more than 17 million last year,” and “advertising revenue … offered only in the U.S., reached $1 billion for the first time.”

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More specifically, Hulu added 5 million subscribers since May 2016, “a gain of about 42 percent.” Unique viewers also reached 54 million. Hulu’s library now includes 75,000 TV episodes, “spanning 1,700 different titles and more than double the number at any other leading streaming service.”

Netflix counted “more than 109 million customers worldwide, including 52.8 million in the U.S., at the end of September,” and “added 5.6 million U.S. subscribers between June 2016 and September 2017.”

TechCrunch said Hulu also “showed off an upcoming version of its user interface at CES,” that includes “a Live TV guide for quickly navigating through what’s currently airing, as well as more tools that will help Hulu to better suggest content you actually like, while removing items you don’t.” The Live TV guide is aimed to “help users find something to watch when they’re not looking for a specific show, but would rather just browse through what’s on now.”

“The majority of usage, even in our Live TV product, is on-demand,” said Hulu senior vice president of experience Ben Smith. “Fifty-four percent of usage is on-demand and 46 percent of usage is live. And that live usage is dominated by two things: news and sports.” Smith added that, “people watch far less DVR’d content than we thought they would,” which, he said, “speaks to the breadth to the on-demand catalog.”

The Live TV interface is “about speed and utility,” said Smith, with the option to start an on-demand program from the beginning. The new interface, which is expected to debut in spring 2018, has an upgrade plan for 2019 that includes an opt-in social feature to find friends across Facebook and Instagram; the ability to create curated lists of recommendations; and a co-watching experience.