Interim CEO Andy Forssell talked with TheWrap about the streaming service's plan to step up original productions — carefully
Bolstered by an infusion of cash from its owners and eager to move on from a sale that never happened, Hulu will aggressively expand its production of original shows to as many as eight by next year, interim CEO Andy Forssell told TheWrap.
Forssell said he planned to present four new shows Wednesday at the Television Critics summer press tour: "The Awesomes" from former "Saturday Night Live" cohorts Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker, "Quick Draw," "Behind the Mask" and "The Wrong Mans."
Each of those will debut between August and November, and each appeals to a different subsection of Hulu's audience.
But that's just the beginning for a more assertive Hulu.
"I see us doubling in terms of original [shows]," Forssell said, promising "better shows, shows that are more ambitious and marketing that's a lot more sophisticated."
That is welcome news to many in Hollywood eager to see the company step up its original content to rival two competitors – Netflix and Amazon.
Those two companies have drawn numerous headlines over the past few months for upending the television industry, Netflix in particular. It released every episode of "House of Cards" at once, and got nine Emmy nominations for that show (and 14 overall).
Amazon has asked its customers to pick which TV shows it will make, and is ready to talk about its innovative tactics even before one of its shows has finished production.
Meanwhile, Hulu executives have been forced to ignore questions about a sale that never happened. Yet now that Disney and Fox have decided to keep Hulu, and rewarded it with $750 million in new cash, Hulu can return its focus to the future — TV.
Hulu was once an unrivaled company at the intersection of TV and technology, legally offering new TV shows online before anyone else. That remains a focus of the company — but it's now one of three prongs alongside a library of old shows and new exclusive ones. Some of those are originally made for Hulu, like "The Awesomes," and some exclusively air new seasons on Hulu, like "The Thick Of It" from "Veep" creator Armando Ianucci.
"Given the commitment from investors and increased funding […] we can get more aggressive in all 3 areas," Forssell said. "Will we spend more on originals and exclusives? Yes. We'll also be more aggressive looking at library stuff and make it feel like something new."
Forssell cautioned that his company would not be as assertive as Netflix when it comes to original shows.
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"We won't suddenly make 20 originals a year," Forssell said. "We can do it, but I don't think we'd make 20 good ones. We can't change things overnight. We are earning the right to do what it took the HBOs of the world 20 years to do."
However, he said that Hulu expects its customers will soon spend three times as much time with shows exclusive to Hulu. While about five percent of viewing time is dedicated to those shows now, it should increase to 10 or 15 percent.
Does that mean that Hulu will offer viewership ratings? In that sense, it's exactly like Netflix.
"I hope you ask me forever and I hope I never give them to you," Forssell joked. "I'm tempted on a show that does really well, shows that do really well by cable standards. The numbers would shock you."
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