Hulu will stream a mix of reality TV parodies, supernatural comedies and animated superheroes this year in an effort to establish itself as the dominant player in digital video.
The online video service will bring back a mixture of new and returning shows to try and compete against deep-pocketed players such as Amazon and YouTube, not to mention Netflix. Among Hulu’s new offerings are “Deadbeat,” a comedy about a medium who helps ghosts, and “The Hotwives of Orlando,” a “Real Housewives” send-up of Sunshine State cat-fighters and Chablis swillers.
“This slate shows our growth and evolution,” Charlotte Koh, head of development at Hulu Originals, told TheWrap. “We’re just offering bigger and better shows as time goes on.”
Hulu is trying to develop its own successful original content ala Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.” But Netflix has a head start, with more than 31 million paying subscribers in the U.S. alone, compared to the 5 million accounts managed by Hulu’s subscription arm, Hulu Plus.
Hulu has been programming its own in-house productions since 2011, developing shows while studio owners weighed selling the service only to pull it from the auction block at the last minute. Last year, the media companies announced that rather than sell their stakes, they would invest $750 million to build Hulu’s programming and market its services. That financial commitment will bear fruit later this year, Koh said.
“Much of what you’re seeing in 2014 was already in the works,” Koh said. “You’ll see the impact of their endorsement in the next six months, as we begin announcing deals. Keep watching this space, because we’ll have a growing appetite for more deals and bigger shows.”
In addition, Hulu will release the original Scandinavian version of the FX drama series “The Bridge,” as well as the Canadian dance drama “The Next Step.”
Koh said that Hulu has grown more confidant about programming with each year and has been able to build up its roster of talent. Among the bigger names associated with this year’s incoming suite of programs are “Tropic Thunder’s” Brandon T. Jackson and “So You Think You Can Dance’s” Cat Deeley, who both pop up in “Deadbeat,” as well as “Flight of the Conchords” Kristen Schaal, who brings her deadpan wit to “Housewives.”
“All those early pioneers who took a leap with us helped us build a reputation with creators,” Koh said. “We keep getting bigger pitches from known talent.”
“Hotwives” producer Paul Scheer said he chose the platform for the creative freedom and a growing sense that the old barriers between television and online media had collapsed.
“We are getting more and more agnostic about where we watch things,” Scheer said. “A good show is a good show, and it doesn’t matter what platform it’s on.
“The cool thing about this space is you have the freedom to do this project while working on a bunch of other projects,” he added. “You don’t have a contract where you’re signing your life away and working for the man for a long time.”
Online video may offer creators more independence than broadcast, but it’s still a challenge to cut through the digital chatter and get viewers to check out shows.
Koh said that Hulu learned how much marketing could pay off with “The Wrong Mans” action spoof, and plans more TV spots and outdoor billboards on future shows. She said the company will also continue to experiment with how it rolls out its shows. It may, as it has in the past, offered more episodes at one time to its Hulu Plus customers, with more limited access to the general public, as it tries to build its subscriber base.
“It’s a constant topic of conversation…going forward we’re going to try to figure out more ways to reward our subscribers,” Koh said.
Koh said a second season of U.K. import “The Wrong Mans” is a possibility, but noted that star James Corden has a busy movie career in the United States, now that he’s landed a prominent role in “Into the Woods” opposite Johnny Depp and will soon be seen in the film festival favorite, “Can a Song Save Your Life?”
“As soon as we can get everyone back together and focused, there will be one,” Koh said. “We certainly know that the desire is there.”
Here’s a look at Hulu’s upcoming slate:
“The Awesomes” Season 2
Premieres: Summer 2014
“The Awesomes” is an animated show for adults from co-creators Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker (“Late Night with Seth Meyers“). It is the story about the greatest superhero team in history, The Awesomes, and what happens after all the most powerful members leave. Season 2 will feature new supervillains and superheroes. Among the returning voice actors are Ike Barinholtz, Kenan Thompson and Taran Killam.
“Behind the Mask” Season 2
Premieres: 2014 TBD
Created by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Josh Greenbaum (“The Short Game”), the series will take viewers behind-the-scenes into the world of being a sports mascot. Season 2 will profile characters at the high school, college and professional levels.
Premieres: Jan. 14
A woman is found murdered in the middle of the Øresund Bridge – right on the border between Sweden and Denmark. The Swedish and Danish police are called to the scene and find what at first looks like one murder turns out to be two. The bodies have been brutally cut in half and made to form one single corpse. Recently adapted for FX.
Premieres: April 9
A 10-episode half-hour supernatural comedy directed and executive produced by Troy Miller (“Flight of the Conchords,” “Arrested Development”) and co-created by Cody Heller and Brett Konner (“Wilfred,” “The Inbetweeners”). Tyler Labine (“Reaper”) stars as Kevin Pacalioglu, a hapless but gifted medium who helps New York’s ghosts settle their unfinished business. Brandon T. Jackson (“Tropic Thunder”) plays his best friend and Cat Deeley (“So You Think You Can Dance”) stars as a glamorous celebrity medium.
“East Los High” Season 2
Premieres: Summer 2014
The returning series follows a single mom and features an all Latino cast. More than 15 leading public health organizations advised on the scripts and content to address teen issues related to relationships and sexuality in a meaningful way.
“Hotwives of Orlando”
Premieres: 2014 TBD
A parody of one of the most popular franchises in reality television, “The Hotwives of Orlando,” will unveil the glamorous lives of six hot housewives living large in the “sexiest city” in the world, Orlando, Fla. “The Hotwives of Orlando” stars Casey Wilson (“Happy Endings”), Angela Kinsey (“The Office”), Kristen Schaal (“Flight of the Conchords”), Tymberlee Hill (“Drunk History”), Danielle Schneider (“Upright Citizens Brigade”) and Andrea Savage (“Step Brothers”). The series is brought to Hulu and HuluPlus by Paramount Insurge and is produced by Emmy Award-winning executive producer Jonathan Stern (“Childrens Hospital”) and executive producer Paul Scheer (“NTSF:SD:SUV”).
“Moone Boy” Season 2
Premieres: April 24
The returning series is about a young boy growing up in a chaotic household in 1990s Ireland. To help guide him, the boy relies on a not always helpful imaginary friend, played by Chris O'Dowd (“Bridesmaids”).
“The Next Step”
Premieres: May 2014
This reality-style teen drama follows the lives of a group of dancers at The Next Step Dance Studio as they attempt to win the regional dance championships. A Temple Street (“Orphan Black”) production, “The Next Step” is made available to Hulu and Hulu Plus by BBC Worldwide North America.
“Quick Draw” Season 2
Premieres: Fall 2014
“Quick Draw” is a comedy western set in 1875 centering on Sheriff John Henry Hoyle (John Lehr), a recent Harvard graduate, who brings the latest criminology and forensics techniques to the wild west town of Great Bend, Kansas. The series is co-created and executive produced by Nancy Hower and John Lehr (“10 Items or Less,” “Jailbait”) and co-executive produced by Keith Raskin (“Key & Peele,” “The League”).
“Rev.” Season 3
Premieres: Summer 2014
“Rev.” is a BAFTA award-winning comedy series following the enormous daily frustrations and moral conflicts of an inner-city vicar Rev. Adam Smallbone, played by co-creator Tom Hollander (“Pirates of the Caribbean”). Guest stars include “Downton Abbey”s’ Hugh Bonneville.