Home / Entertainment / Hulu in 2018: Handmaid's Talk Season 2, New Shows, and Disney Takeover

Hulu in 2018: Handmaid's Talk Season 2, New Shows, and Disney Takeover



As season 2 in the reigning Emmy champ debut and streaming service once called "Clown Co." is now approaching 20 million subscribers, CEO Randy Freer and his team are keen to compete with Netflix and Amazon, tough governing policy and the threatening takeover of Disney.

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It looks very like any other great premiere. Hundreds of screaming fans are occupied on either side of Hollywood Boulevard as stars work the red carpet and fans cling to selfies. With the exception of Elisabeth Moss's giant posters and the incredible handcuffs in bright red dresses and strong white bonnets, silent waking up pale over the crowd, there is no sign of the story being done this evening.

But on this cool April evening, for the first time ever, Hulu debuts an original show at the TCL Chinese Theater. "My heart pounds," says Moss when she takes the stage before entering the theater. "It's crazy. I grew up in LA I can not believe I'm at the Chinese theater."

Then a bus with a big picture of her face rolls on the side.

For Hulu, the little streamer who was in a big hit, this 1

9th April 19459008 official's speech 's second season is another crucial moment, the biggest night since September in September, the Emmy Awards when Hulu shocked the television industry by becoming the first streamer to win the best drama trophy, something that even the powerful Netflix has not succeeded. Hulus dystopian series, which lies in an authoritarian nation called Gilead, where women are subjugated and forced to reproduce with powerful men, ended up chatting with viewers when it premiered in April 2017, three months in the Trump presidency. Overnight, a platform once known for the last night's episode of The Bachelor and reruns of The Golden Girls had become a Zeitgeist-defining voice in the culture, not to mention a serious players in the prestige content arena.

Strong because of Handmaids – and even Hulus's lively Live TV service – the company has been the biggest growth spurt in its 10-year history and closed to 20 million subscribers, per insider, an increase of 18 percent in the last four months. Granted, there are still a fraction of Netflix 125 million global subscribers or Amazon's 100 million Prime customers (the company does not reveal how many view Prime Video), but Hulu is strictly a domestic operation, at least for the moment. If the numbers continue to climb, it's not hard to imagine a non-so-dystopian future where Hulu narrows the gap with Netflix's 55 million US subscribers. "I'm not a surfer," said Hulu Ceo Randy Freer, 57, who describes his strategy for the 1800 company since he took over from Mike Hopkins after his sudden exit this fall. "But you want to ride that wave for as long as you can."

It can still be an uneven ride. For one thing, Hulu has broken ownership structure – with rivals Comcast, 21st Century Fox, Disney and Time Warner, all of which are part of the company – not just made for an efficient decision-making process. On the contrary, the development of slow development is known to frustrate advertising. And the overheated content market, with competing platforms climbing each other to write massive controls, has boosted talent costs to a point where smaller players like Hulu are often priced. Hulu annual war chest is set to float over $ 2.5 billion, enough for bankroll Handmaids and some other high-profile projects (a George Clooney adaptation of Catch-22 a Reese Witherspoon miniseries based on Celeste Ngs 2017 novel Little Fire Everywhere A Mindy Kaling Anthology Version of Four Weddings and a Funeral as THR can reveal approaching a series of orders). But it's chump change compared to Netflix's global content budget of $ 8 billion for this year, or even Amazon's $ 4.5 billion last year. "Money is important, and we can really write a big deal," claims Hulu content manager Joel Stillerman, who came from AMC in June. "But it does not help you land a project every time."

By far the biggest obstacle is Disney's proposed $ 52 billion acquisition of most of the 21st Century Fox, which includes a buyout of Fox's 30 percent stake in Hulu (at $ 8.7 billion). It would give Disney a majority stake of 60 percent (leaving Comcast, owner of NBC, by 30 percent and Time Warner by 10 percent). Nobody knows exactly how it would play, or if it will happen. The merger still needs state approval, or Comcast can enter their own game for Hulu. But a Disney takeover could at least finally solve the ownership problem. "There is an advantage to having a controlling shareholder," said 21st Century Fox president (and Hulu board member) Peter Rice. "It's always easier to get a company to say," This is my strategic imperative. I'll invest deep in it. ""

Freer takes a little more careful attitude about the merger, but still succeeds in making the happiest possible face in the future. "We can not predict what can happen," he says. "But if and when something happens, you will look up and go," Hello, Hulu has how many subscribers? ""

Hulu has always been a team of rivals. In 2007, NBC and Fox owners discarded their competitive discrepancies to address a mutual threat: Google's acquisition of the video streaming giant YouTube. At that time, few prisoners took seriously. Even the partnership's high public struggle for finding a name-induced snickers (inside Google they called it "Clown Co."). But eventually, $ 100 million venture investment from Providence Equity Partners, found a strategy – distribute the latest episodes of their proprietary broadcasting series for free (but with ads) over the internet – and even got a name that founding CEO Jason Kilar claimed was inspired by mandarin word for "holders of valuable things". Then, Disney licensing of ABC programs as part of the deal began to bind three of Hollywood's biggest competitors into an unlikely (and often troubled) corporate marriage.

Hulu had introduced a payroll plan by 2013 (subscribers now pay $ 8 a month or $ 12 to avoid the ads) and had attracted about 5 million members, but the company's aviation – especially between Kilar and the board – made growth difficult. After Kilar went down that same year, Hulu began to earn serious purchases from DirectTV and Peter Chernin's company. In one minute, the board felt that one should take one. But at the same time, the Netflix House of Cards fell $ 100 million Kevin Spacey-as-President drama, and the efforts in the streaming world became much bigger. Instead of selling, Disney, Fox and Comcast decided to double down and give Netflix a run for their money. They pumped $ 750 million in Hulu and installed a proprietary Fox Networks president for the distribution Mike Hopkins, as CEO.

Hopkins was busy converting Hulu into a more serious TV buyer, including picking up Mindy Project ] in a store that rescued the fox comedy from cancellation, as well as buying a drama from Jason Reitman ( Casual ) and a time trip from JJ Abrams ( 11/22/63 ). During Hopkins, Hulu more than doubled in size to over 12 million subs and in spring 2017 a 40 percent live TV service of $ 40 rolled out, which would give it a contest to own live streaming space. "Mike did a heroic job that took orders back to the chaos that was Hulu," said Freer from his predecessor. Yet Hulu had not yet found his House of Cards .

Until it was in the middle by 2015, when the original prince Beatrice Springborn received Ilene Chaiken's script for a television version of The Official's Voice by MGM. A screening of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel was previously tried – a comprehensive 1990 movie with Natasha Richardson and the Faye Dunaway and TV project did not generate much buzz (Showtime had already gone). But Hulu saw an opportunity and offered a straight order series, depending on talent, and beat FX, the only other bidder.

A rewriting of Eureka scribe (and Atwood super fan) Bruce Miller was enough to draw attention to Elisabeth Moss. But now the 35-year-old actress, fresh from her appearance, becomes Peggy on [1 9459008] Mad Men (for which she had been nominated for sex Emmys), some convinced had to turn back to another big TV engagement. That's when Warren Littlefield, who worked with MGM on FXs Fargo received a call from his agent and invited him to join Official as a producer whose first mission was to convince Moss to sign on. "He said," Lizzie Moss is in Australia who makes Top of the Lake 2 . She is interested [in Handmaid's ]. You must take the phone with her, make her approve of you, make her join in making the series, "reminds Littlefield." And I was, "Oh, OK. It's all I have to do?" "After a two-hour chat, Moss agreed. Handmaid's has its green light.

Production began in late 2016 and in an alternative reality, the display that was created could have been a dark critical darling that few people disturbed, but then Trump Hillary Clinton struck. Atwood's 30-year dystopian story acknowledged a new and, too many people, daunting rush.

At a time in the weeks that followed the 2016 presidential election, Hulu executives acknowledged that US voters had surrendered them once in a lifetime marketing opportunity. They almost doubled the budget before Handmaid's premiere, one step said to drive it over $ 10 million and bought a Super Bowl- advertisement at a rate of $ 5 million. At the last minute they added an overtime purchase for a second place – like like would ever happen. Then, with the New England Patriots recovering from a 25-point deficit to tie the game. The two officials' ads were viewed by approximately 111 million viewers. Within a few days, Atwood's novel was topped on Amazon's bestseller. Reminds of content owner Craig Erwich: "Sometimes the universe sends you a signal, and it was definitely a signal."

By January 2017 Women's March still fresh in the country's consciousness, Hulu released the first three episodes on April 26th. The New York Times praised the show as "unpleasant, vital and scary as hell." While everyone had focused on Netflix and Amazon's fight against streaming dominance, Hulu had launched a sneak attack. At night it became an Emmy contestant. "They had the ambition and they had the talent, but they still got their sea," says Abrams, who has made Hulu again for the Stephen King Anthology series Castle Rock which is debuting this summer. "Now they are in this amazing rhythm. There's a threshold that gets crossed when you get galvanized. That's where they are."

Despite Emmy's bargain, in October 2017 – just one month after Handmaids won best drama and seven other awards – Hopkins announced that he left to run Sony Pictures Television. Behind the scenes he is said to have checked the board over the decision to start the live TV service; Hopkins had wanted to make an international push instead. Installation costs (Hulu lost $ 920 million in 2017) was also a factor, per source. In Hopkins's place, the Hulu Board Freer, a 20-year-old fighter veteran known for his skills as an operator, is called.

Freer was just one week in his new role and still learned what was "under the hood" at Hulu when, on the morning of November 6, a CNBC report began to make the rounds that Disney had negotiated with Rupert Murdoch to acquire most of Fox. "We saw the process like everyone else," says Freer.

He insists on the little that it will change for Hulu if the deal goes through – "We are a joint venture today, we will be a joint venture tomorrow" he says – but it assumes that Disney and Comcast continue to play good if Disney takes control. Although Disney would be responsible, Comcast, as a founding member via NBC, would look at the Hulu Board (it will regain the three places in September as NBCU universals temporarily gave up when Comcast bought the company in 2011) and it will be able to block basic changes in Hulu's business. Some analysts suggest that it could also try to buy Hulu from Disney, who plans to use streams as it missed board member Bob Iger's numerous triangular strategy to enter Streaming Biz, which is already running with the launch on April 12 by ESPN + and a family media service that is still in development. "Now we are looking for Hulu to give us consumer growth in the future," said Disney Kevin Mayer, president of direct to consumer and international, explaining the growing interest of Hulu in Hulu. "It's no longer a hedge, it's a strategic vehicle for us."

In a conference room on Hulu's Santa Monica campus, Erwich is holding its weekday meeting with its original team. The question they are talking about today when they crowd around a table: An A-list komediduo has begun shopping for an overall business and they are expected to have their choice of future homes. Should Hulu make an offer? "We have to have the conversation," says Erwich to his group, raising the bigger question about how much Hulu should be in the overall talents. The platform has not yet signed a big name for more than one one-time project. "Do we want to be in [the overall deal] business? It has become apparent to me in the last two months we have to be."

Although Hulu does not have Netflix access to cash (it recently wrote nine-digit controls to attract Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes away from their homelands) and definitely not Amazon's bottomless pocketbook (it paid $ 250 million for just the right to create a series 19459007), Hulu must still attract speakers to be competitive. "We have kicked the tires and there are a few things percolating," acknowledges Stillerman after Erwich's meeting ends. Without giving specifications, he suggests that Hulus's version of an overall talent agreement may look like a non-exclusive first-look pact.

Still, Hulu works with its benefits. As there is no studio or international service, Hulu allows to produce partners to retain ownership in their exhibitions. Says Stillerman: "There is nobody in town we can not do business with."

If Hulu ever makes a bid for a foreign audience, it may need to stick to international rights. Freer admits that something is actively considering the company but acknowledges that the moment may have gone, as most popular TV shows have already been sold internationally. Instead, he suggests that Hulu can look for partners to help it go globally in a faster and cheaper way: "I'll figure out how to solve that puzzle in a way that's economically viable."

Meanwhile, Hulu has been in business with everyone from Lawrence Wright to make The Looming Tower a Hulu original on the days until 9/11 (the final sent April 18) to Beau Willimon for To make T [19659026] he first a Mars-set series with Starring Sean Penn, to Clooney to make his Catch-22 miniseries, which began firing in late May. Not to mention Sarah Silverman, whose politically charged talk show, I Love You, America has just been renewed in time for the mid-term election. "I would definitely do this show somewhere where I could do what I wanted," says Silverman. "I was nice," why should we play on a streaming network? "But we were charmed by Hulu passion."

It turns out that a little passion can be a powerful thing. That's a big reason why Springborn could, earlier this year, knock out Apple to land Little Fire Everywhere . When she clashed Witherspoon and Kerry Washington – in a power show that shows how competitive the landscape is for the best TV projects, the two producers had buyers at them with Witherspon's production company – she knew carefully that her own parents had grown up in Shaker Heights , Ohio, where family drama is suspended, urging Hulu execs to get as personal. "We wrote all the letters about our links to the material," said Springborn. For Witherspoon, the letters were not the only sealed deal. "They are not afraid to drive boundaries," she said THR .

Yet is the perception of the city that Hulu's seven-person board (which, apart from Rice and Mayer, includes Disney-ABC TV CEO Ben Sherwood and Fox Television Group Chairman and CEO Dana Walden) is too practical in programming decisions, which can slow down the creative process. that several sources indicate that the board played a role in Hulu's decision earlier this year to forward Carlton Cuse's Locke and Key which is said to be a favorite of Stillerman. Despite funding for a writer room and expensive Toronto-based For the graphic novel adaptation, Hulu finally scrapped the project. Freer denies the board's commitment and instead proposes not to fit his strategy for Hulu. Although the board approves of major Hulu investments, Freer says that "during my five-year commitment, I can only think of one or two projects – really just one project – there were some board issues."

Another ban on Hulu is that it does not provide enough content. Netflix released about 30 new programs in 2017. Hulu had only eight. Stillerman admits that the development rate may have subsided during the leadership transition and notes, "but I do not think we are worried about our volume of originals." What is more likely on Stillerman's minds – like everyone else at Hulu – is what happens on April 25, when season two of Handmaid's speech begins to flow. How that show lasts six months in the Trump presidency – now seen through the more complicated lens in #MeToo and Time's Up Movements – will have a big impact on how Hulu is perceived by the industry. It is after all a matter of starting a meeting; it's quite different to keep it, even less to build an entire flowing empire from its success. It was something that was heavily weighed in mind by at least one official producer when he went to Hulu last summer to throw the next season. Tell Littlefield, "We were like," shit, we'd rather not let go of the ball. ""

It looks very like any other great premiere. Hundreds of screaming fans are occupied on either side of Hollywood Boulevard as stars work the red carpet and fans cling to selfies. With the exception of Elisabeth Moss's giant posters and the incredible handcuffs in bright red dresses and strong white bonnets, silent waking up pale over the crowd, there is no sign of the story being done this evening.

This story first appeared in the April 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To get the magazine, click here to subscribe.


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