There’s no doubt that Netflix remains king of video streaming… but the crown is resting uneasy as competitors like Amazon Prime and Hulu continue to make a big push. Hulu, especially, has proven more game than many initially gave them credit for. When the streaming service joined the market, they were often dismissed as a perennial also ran, and not given much respect.
But Hulu kept building, adding new content, including the award-winning “Handmaid’s Tale” adaptation, and now the service boasts more than 20 million subscribers in the United States. That’s much less than Netflix’s 55 million US subscribers, but Hulu is still growing.
And, as services like Amazon Prime are raising their rates, Hulu is adding services. Most recently, the streaming service announced that it would begin allowing subscribers to download content so they could watch it offline. This is a huge step for a company that makes its money when people are watching the stream.
That’s one way for Hulu to continue to survive in a market with much larger competitors. The service needs to find a way to stand out from the crowd, to give consumers a reason to subscribe, even when they probably already have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or both, and maybe others. One way Hulu has done this has been to tap into nostalgia, offering classing sitcoms TV fans love.
Another method — and this one is vital — is to develop popular original programming fans can only get on Hulu. To that end, Hulu has produced and streamed not only the hugely popular Handmaid’s Tale, but also the well-received comic book adaptation, Runaways, Battleground, Future Man, The Mindy Project, among others. While it’s fair to say Hulu’s menu of original programming has not done as well as originals on Netflix, the service has managed to continue to build fans and carve out an interesting, if eclectic niche. The most important factor, is that Hulu had managed to continue to attract a wide and diverse fan base, even as it refines its target niche.
Hulu’s track seems to work best if the service devotes resources to creating a unique and connective identity, rather than trying to duke it out with Netflix, at least at this stage of the game. Being a “yes, and” option rather than trying to become an alternative. But there’s not a lot of time for that process to build. Even as Hulu is showing impressive growth, Netflix is also expanding, as are Amazon Prime, Apple TV and YouTube.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5W Public Relations