In March 2019, Disney acquired21st Century Fox, giving it a 60% majority stake in Hulu. AT&T (which acquired Time Warner in 2018) sold back its roughly 10% stake the following month. Comcast, the only other shareholder, announced on May 14, 2019, that it had agreed to cede its control to Disney, and reached an agreement for Disney to purchase its 33% stake in the company as early as 2024.
Jason Kilar, who served as CEO of Hulu, said the name comes from a Chinese proverb:
"Hulu is Mandarin for gourd. And so when we were launching Hulu, we thought, 'what a great name that is.' And it had this great sort of symbolism of the holder of precious things, which is the holder of premium content. So that's why we named it Hulu."
The name Hulu was chosen in late August 2007, when the website went live, with an announcement only and no content. It invited users to leave their email addresses for the upcoming beta test. In October 2007, Hulu began the private beta testing by invitation, and later allowed users to invite friends. Hulu launched for public access in the United States on March 12, 2008. The first product to launch was the HULU Syndication network, which was designed and developed by the NBC Universal team from New York, on October 29, 2007, followed by the Hulu.com destinations site.
Early in 2010, Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar said the service had made a profit in two quarters and that the company could top $100 million in revenue by summer 2010, more than its income for all of 2009. ComScore says monthly video streams reached 903 million in January 2010, over three times the figure for a year earlier, and second only to YouTube.
On August 16, 2010, a report revealed that Hulu was planning an initial public offering (IPO) which could value the company at more than $2 billion.
On June 21, 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that an "unsolicited offer" caused Hulu to begin "weighing whether to sell itself". However, on October 13, 2011, Hulu and its owners announced that they would not sell the company, as none of the bidders offered an amount that was satisfactory to its owners.
Hulu generated $420 million in revenue in 2011, $80 million short of the company's target. The vacant CEO post was officially filled by former Fox Networks President Mike Hopkins on October 17, 2013.
In October 2012, Providence sold its 10 percent stake to "Hulu's media owners" and ceased participation in the board.
Fox Networks Group COO Randy Freer was named CEO on October 24, 2017.
In December 2017, Disney announced that they would acquire 21st Century Fox, including its 30% stake in Hulu, in a sale completed on March 20, 2019. The deal resulted in Disney having a controlling 60% interest in Hulu.
On April 15, 2019, AT&T (via WarnerMedia) sold its 9.5% stake in Hulu back to the company for $1.43 billion.
Ownership history of Hulu.
On May 14, 2019, Comcast relinquished its control in Hulu to Disney effective immediately. As a result, the streaming service became a division of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) with Comcast effectively becoming a silent partner. Under the agreement, Comcast's 33% stake can be sold to Disney at fair market value as early as 2024. The fair market value will be determined at that time, but Disney guaranteed a minimum valuation of the entire company at $27.5 billion (valuing the Comcast stake as worth at least $5.8 billion). Randy Freer would report to Disney executive Kevin Mayer.
In the wake of the deal, Disney CEO Bob Iger explained that direct integration of Hulu with Disney's studios would allow increased investments in original content, which would in turn allow it to "make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers".
NBCUniversal will continue to license its content to the service through at least 2024, but it will have the option to begin transitioning its exclusivity deals with Hulu to non-exclusive terms beginning in 2020, and to end other content deals beginning in 2022.
Disney stated that its control of Hulu was the third major component of its direct-to-consumer strategy, complementing its sports streaming service ESPN+, and its then-forthcoming Disney+ (which would be focused primarily on family-friendly content from Disney's flagship franchises and studios). Hulu would be oriented towards "general" entertainment and content targeting mature audiences.
On July 31, 2019, Disney reorganized Hulu's reporting structure, placing Hulu's Scripted Originals team under Walt Disney Television. Under the new structure, Hulu's SVP of Original Scripted Content would report directly to the chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. As of November 2019, FX and Fox Searchlight were assigned to supply Hulu with content.
In January 2020, Disney eliminated the role of Hulu CEO, as part of fully integrating Hulu with Disney's business model. Under the new structure, top Hulu executives would report directly to DTCI and Walt Disney Television leads. On January 31, 2020, CEO Randy Freer resigned from his role as part of a major restructuring of Disney's streaming business; a part of the restructuring, Disney announced on February 25, 2020 that Kelly Campbell would run Hulu as president, reporting to DTCI Chairman, Kevin Mayer.
In October 2020, Disney reorganized their media business with a greater focus on streaming. They are planning to add more content for Hulu and their other streaming platforms such as Disney+.
Following the start of its service, Hulu signed deals with several new content providers making additional material available to consumers. On April 30, 2009, The Walt Disney Company announced that it would join the venture, purchasing a 27 percent stake in Hulu.
Starting August 15, 2011, viewers of content from Fox and related networks are required to authenticate paid cable or satellite service wherever Fox streams episodes, including on Hulu, to be able to watch them the morning after the first airing. Non-subscribers will see those episodes delayed a week before they are viewable.
On October 28, 2011, Hulu announced that they had inked a five-year deal with The CW, giving the streaming site access to next-day content from five of the six major networks. On September 18, 2013, Hulu announced a multi-year deal with the BBC that would deliver 2,000 episodes from 144 different titles in the first 12 months.
In 2015, Hulu began offering content from Showtime for an additional $8.99/month, which is cheaper than Showtime's own streaming service. On June 16, 2016, Hulu announced a deal with the Disney-ABC Television Group for the exclusive SVOD rights to past seasons of seven Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD series, and more than 20 Disney Channel original movies.
The CW's agreement with Hulu ended September 18, 2016; in-season streaming of current CW programs moved to the network's own digital platforms, and Netflix began to carry past seasons of The CW's programs through 2019. As of January 2017[update], a limited amount of content from CBS's library is available on-demand, mostly limited to shows that are no longer producing new episodes. On January 4, 2017, it was reported that a deal was reached to bring live broadcasts of CBS and several affiliated channels to Hulu's upcoming live streaming service as well as to make more shows available on-demand.
In April 2018, Hulu announced a partnership with Spotify that allows users to purchase both streaming services for a discounted price per month. This discount also includes an even more discounted rate for university students.
Hulu subscription service
Hulu's subscription service was launched in beta (preview) on June 29, 2010, and officially launched on November 17, 2010 under the branding Hulu Plus. The service remained advertising-supported, but it offers an expanded content library including full seasons, day-after access to current season content and more episodes of shows available. Hulu also launched Hulu Plus apps on other types of devices, including mobile, digital media players, and video game consoles. By the end of 2011, Hulu Plus had around 1.5 million subscribers.
On April 29, 2015, it was announced that the "Hulu Plus" branding would be discontinued, and that the service would be henceforth marketed as simply "Hulu" to place it in-line with its subscription-only competitors. By then, the service had grown to 9 million subscribers.
The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2015 that Hulu was exploring an advertising-free subscription option for around $12 to $14 a month. This was confirmed as going forward as of September 2, 2015[update], with a "No Commercials" plan priced at $11.99, $4 more than the $7.99 monthly rate for a "Limited Commercials" subscription, though a few highlighted network series (fewer than 10) would retain pre-roll and post-roll[clarification needed] ad pods. Starting in 2019, Hulu plans to begin displaying on-screen ads when the viewer pauses the show, although it is unclear whether this will apply to customers on the $11.99/month No Ads plan.
In May 2016, Hulu announced that it had reached 12 million subscribers. In January 2018, Hulu announced that it had reached 17 million subscribers.
On August 8, 2016, Hulu announced that it would discontinue its free video on-demand content, and syndicate it to Yahoo! on a new website known as Yahoo! View. This service features recent episodes of ABC, Fox, and NBC series. The Hulu website is now devoted exclusively to the subscription service.
In May 2018 Hulu introduced 5.1 surround sound on select devices for its original content. In December 2016 Hulu began streaming content in 4K, also limited to its original content. 4K video was quietly rolled back in 2018, and reintroduced in July 2019. HDR video is currently not supported.
On January 23, 2019, Hulu announced a $2 price drop for the basic ad-supported plan to $5.99. The $5.99 monthly plan has previously been offered as a promotional offer since late 2017 where users that signed up (or reactivated accounts that had previously ended their service) during the offer period would keep the price for an entire year before paying the regular rate.
Since the launch of Disney+ in November 2019, the service has been available in the United States in a bundle with Hulu and ESPN+, priced at US$12.99 per-month for the ad-supported tier of Hulu, and US$18.99 for the ad-free tier of Hulu.
Hulu + Live TV
In May 2016, Hulu announced that it planned to begin offering an over-the-topIPTV service with "live programming from broadcast and cable brands" some time in 2017. In late 2016, co-owners 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company agreed to supply their channels to the streaming service, joined by Time Warner, which previously reached an agreement with Hulu.
The service, originally marketed as "Hulu with Live TV," launched in beta on May 3, 2017. It was later renamed to "Hulu + Live TV." The service included live streams of more than 50 broadcast and cable-originated channels, including feeds of the five major broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW - as well as cable channels owned by Hulu co-parents NBCUniversal and The Walt Disney Company, along with ViacomCBS, Fox Corporation, WarnerMedia Entertainment, Discovery, Inc., and A+E Networks, with HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime available as add-ons for an extra fee. Hulu representatives stated that it intends to negotiate carriage agreements with independently owned broadcasting groups to gain distribution rights to local stations from additional markets.
The service was initially priced at $39.99 per-month. In December 2019, the price had been increased to $54.99 per month (after having previously been raised to $44.99). By May 2018, the service had reached 800,000 subscribers. In the third quarter of 2019, Hulu overtook Sling TV as the top OTT pay television service in the United States, with 2.7 million subscribers.
Viewership numbers for the site are tracked by measurement firms such as ComScore, Nielsen ratings, and Quantcast. In partnership with comScore, Hulu is the first digital company to receive multi-platform measurement at an individual level that includes co-viewing for living room devices.
The reliability of these metrics has been drawn into question, partly due to widely divergent estimates. For example, between May and June 2010, ComScore updated its scoring methodology and its estimates for Hulu dropping from 43.5 million unique and special viewers to 24 million in a single month. In a comScore digital trends report in 2010, comScore's Digital Year in Review report found that Hulu was watched twice as much as viewers who watched on the websites of the five major TV networks combined.
Hulu in May 2018 announced it has surpassed 20 million subscribers in the United States. The tally, which puts the company about 36 million subscriptions behind Netflix, was disclosed at a media presentation at the newly named Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. Hulu said it has grown total engagement by more than 60%, with 78% of viewing taking place in the living room on connected TVs.
In November 2009, Hulu also began to establish partnerships with record labels to host music videos and concert performances on the site, including EMI in November 2009, and Warner Music Group in December 2009.
In early March 2010, Viacom announced that it was pulling two of the website's most popular shows, The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, off Hulu. The programs had been airing on Hulu since late 2008. A spokesman for Viacom noted that "in the current economic model, there is not that much in it for us to continue at this time. If they can get to the point where the monetization model is better, then we may go back." In February 2011, both shows were made available for streaming on Hulu again. The Daily Show was again removed from Hulu in March 2017 in order to push viewers to watch the program on Viacom and Comedy Central's apps.
New releases from 20th Century Studios will not immediately be available on either Disney+ or Hulu, as it has an existing output deal with HBO until 2022.
Hulu in May 2018 announced its first-ever license deal with DreamWorks Animation, becoming the exclusive streaming home for future DWA movies feature films, as well as library films. DWA had streamed exclusively through Netflix since 2013. Films will be available on the service in 2019, while original series will be available later in 2020.
On December 4, 2018, Hulu confirmed an exclusive multi-year first-look SVOD deal with Funimation.
In June 2019, Hulu and FX signed an output deal with Lionsgate, where Hulu and FX would respectably gain the streaming and TV rights to films released under the Lionsgate label in 2020 and 2021.
In August 2019, Hulu agreed to control the streaming rights to upcoming films released by Bleecker Street.
On March 2, 2020, Hulu launched a dedicated "hub" for content from FX branded as "FX on Hulu", with the service becoming the exclusive streaming outlet for current and past series from the network. Beginning with Breeders, new episodes of FX original series also become available on Hulu immediately after their television airing, and selected series will also premiere exclusively on the service.
On January 14, 2021, it was announced that following an exclusive 3-week IMAX engagement, Searchlight's Nomadland would be released on Hulu alongside a regular limited theatrical and drive-in run in the United States on February 19.
From January 17, 2011 to April 24, 2014, Hulu streamed its own in-house web series The Morning After, a light-hearted pop-culture news show. It was produced by Hulu in conjunction with Jace Hall's HDFilms and stars Brian Kimmet and Ginger Gonzaga. Producing the show was a first for the company, which in the past has been primarily a content distributor.
On January 16, 2012, Hulu announced that it would be airing its first original script based program, titled Battleground, which premiered in February 2012. The program aired on Hulu's free web service rather than on the subscription-based Hulu Plus. Battleground is described as a documentary-style political drama.
Later that same month, Hulu announced it would air The Fashion Fund, a six-part reality series, and the winner of the show would receive $300,000 to start their career.
To continue with its original programming movement, Hulu announced that there would be a total of seven original programs that were planned to air on its service: Battleground, Day in the Life, and Up to Speed were previously mentioned; and on April 19, Hulu added four more shows to its list: Don't Quit Your Daydream, Flow, The Awesomes, and We Got Next. Some of these programs began airing in 2012, while others premiered over the next few years.
On May 21, 2012, Hulu announced it would be bringing Kevin Smith to its lineup of original programming. Smith hosts a movie discussion show titled Spoilers, which began airing in mid-2012.
On May 4, 2016, Hulu acquired The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, as its first documentary acquisition, as part of a planned Hulu Documentary Films collection. The film premiered theatrically on September 15, before debuting on the streaming service on September 17.
In July 2010, the Financial Times revealed that Hulu had been working on plans for an international launch of Hulu Plus for several months, and had identified the UK and Japan as markets where its free website and subscription model could feasibly work. Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar expressed his belief that the US model could be replicated elsewhere, saying "We won't be satisfied until this is a global service." Hulu's first expansion into an international market took place with the launch of a service in Japan on September 1, 2011. On February 27, 2014, Nippon TV announced that it would acquire Hulu's Japanese business. The service would maintain the Hulu name under license, and Hulu would continue to provide its infrastructure and support to the service as a regional licensee. Nippon TV also planned to produce its own original content for the service.
As rights to its content are already held by other broadcasters, U.S.-based video on demand services, including Hulu, are not usually available in Canada. Hulu also cited a small advertising market in Canada as a reason not to launch in that country. Rights to Hulu's original series have often been picked up by domestic broadcasters; for example, The Mindy Project was retained by its previous broadcast home, Citytv, after its move to Hulu,The Handmaid's Tale was acquired by Bell Media cable network CTV Drama Channel and its streaming service Crave, and The Path by Showcase.
Bob Chapek on not using the Hulu brand name for international expansion
In terms of the general entertainment offering internationally, we want to mirror our successful Disney+ strategy by using our Disney+ technical platform, bringing in content we already own and distributing it under a successful international brand that we also already own, which is, of course, Star.
I think it's important to look at the differences at how we plan to enter the market. Hulu aggregates third party content; this will not...Hulu has no brand awareness outside of the US.
The lack of international operations had been considered a potential shortcoming of Hulu in comparison to its sister streaming service Disney+, and competitors such as Prime Video and Netflix. During an earnings call on November 8, 2018, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that after its purchase of 21st Century Fox, it planned to make stronger investments into Hulu, including wider international expansion. In February 2020, Iger announced that the international expansion of Hulu would start in early 2021.
During an earnings call on August 5, 2020, Bob Chapek, who had taken over from Iger as CEO of Disney in late February, announced that Disney planned to launch a new international, general entertainment service under the name Star in 2021, slated to feature content from the ABC, FX, Freeform, 20th Century Studios, and 20th Television libraries. The Star brand originates from international pay television operations inherited by Disney during the 21st Century Fox purchase, which have a strong presence in markets such as India. Chapek argued that the Hulu brand was not well-known outside of the United States, while Star would be a much more recognizable service mark worldwide.
On December 10, 2020, Disney announced that Star would launch as a general entertainment channel within the existing Disney+ service in Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore in February 23, 2021 along with Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam sometime in 2021. In Latin America, Disney plans to launch a separate service under the name Star+, which will feature general entertainment, and sports content from ESPN Latin America.