Hulu passed 25 million subscribers by the end of 2018, the streaming service announced on Tuesday morning, marking a 48 percent year-over-year increase.
The company attributed much of its growth to landing exclusive content that enticed viewers, including every season of “ER,” “King of the Hill,” “Lost” and “Family Guy,” among other network staples. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu’s trademark original series, was nominated for multiple Emmys last year, including the award for Outstanding Drama Series, but failed to bring home the prize like it did in 2017.
“In 2018, Hulu led the industry in attracting and engaging subscribers, building a powerful technology stack and cultivating a brand that both consumers and advertisers love,” Hulu CEO Randy Freer said in a statement Tuesday. “Looking ahead, Hulu is in the best position to be the #1 choice for TV – live and on-demand, with and without commercials, both in and out of the home.”
Hulu said it crossed the 25 million subscriber threshold across all its products, including Hulu with Live TV, which passed the 1 million paying customers mark in September. Hulu subscriptions start at $7.99 a month, with Hulu with Live TV running $39.99 per month.
Hulu’s announcement included two interesting nuggets: the average time spent by Hulu subscribers watching content each month increased 20 percent in 2018 — although Hulu didn’t provide a hard number on how many hours viewers are actually spending watching each week. The company also patted itself on the back for having a significantly younger audience than traditional television, with the median age of a Hulu viewer being 25, in comparison to 56 years old for broadcast TV viewers.
Hulu’s gains have come at a price, however. The service was on pace to lose $1.5 billion in 2018 as of last August, as it plowed money into adding content and grabbing new subscribers. The company still has a long way to go to catch Netflix, the leader in paid streaming subscriptions; Netflix had 137 million subscribers when it reported last October — with about 58.5 million of those being domestic subscribers. Hulu, for comparison, is only available in the U.S.
Disney, which owns 60 percent of Hulu following its acquisition of much of Fox’s assets, still plans on investing heavily in Hulu, with an emphasis on exclusive content. Disney chief Bob Iger said last year he sees Hulu as part of a three-pronged streaming play from the Mouse House, along with Disney’s upcoming service and ESPN+.
“Given the success of Hulu so far in terms of subscriber growth and the relative brand strength and other things too like demographics, we think there’s an opportunity to increase investment in Hulu notably on the programming side,” Iger said in November, during a call following Disney’s Q4 earnings.