In Hulu We Trust: Video Site Previews Three New Series Amid Uncertain Times

Hulu today unveiled highlight reels for three new series it will debut this summer, and when you add those new shows to the substantial Hulu library that’s already there, it is clear the online video channel faces a conundrum.

A service of Comcast/NBC Universal, Disney/ABC and News Corp., Hulu has actually become a destination TV viewers could come to rely on. That’s why the new series are there.

But it becomes a little less clear those three giant media companies can sustain their interest in continuing to back a service that essentially competes with them.

That friction may have led to CEO Jason Kilar’s announcement on Jan. 4 that he will leave the company before the second quarter after building the Website service in 2007..

Hulu, despite 30 million unique visitors a month, also suffers to some degree from the plain fact that it will never have attract as many users as YouTube.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Hulu is seeking $200 million to fund new programming. Apparently, it hasn’t received a reply, or maybe not a favorable one, but the atmosphere doesn’t seem so friendly.

There also have been some reports that the networks want more control over their reruns.

Put those two attitudes together:  Shut off funding for new programs and deny Hulu access to some popular network shows. Bottom line: You’ve got the makings of troubled times ahead. That’s despite the $200 million in revenue Kilar says Hulu generated in 2012.

The library of Hulu product is pretty impressive. We may not be talking Peabody-worthy, but a lot of it is quite watchable, and credit for that goes to Killar and Andy Forssell, Hulu’s vice president of content.

It’s hard for me to get excited about new content providers when a lot of the old, existing ones have obviously quit caring altogether. That there’s room for Honey Boo-Boo on TV just means there’s just too much damn space available.

So if online video eventually crushes a few of them, fine with me. They had it coming.        

The new series includes “The Awesomes,” ten episodes of an animated comedy about a kind of League of Super Heroes who all decide to quit. They’re replaced by the super-hero equivalent of an expansion team, like Muscle Man, who is “as strong as he is stupid” and Gadget Gal, who is actually 85 but looks like she’s 25 which means she has “no obvious old-person smell.” The show is co-created by “Saturday Night Live” news reader Seth Myers and Michael Shoemaker, who now works for “The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

Also coming in June is “The Wrong Mans” (yes, “Mans”) a cheeky buddy drama about two barely-average British blokes, one of whom gets caught in the middle of a potential murder plot when he picks up the ringing cell phone of car crash victim who’s already been carted to the hospital. The show is co-produced by the BBC Worldwide Americas and—hey, what can you glean from a two-minute trailer?—looks like it might be entertaining. There are 10 episodes planned.   

The third show is “Behind the Mask” a five-part documentary on the allegedly secret world of sports mascots, from filmmaker Josh Greenbaum and Occupant Entertainment.

A gang of other Hulu returning series rev up new episodes soon, including “Fresh Meat” (Jan. 13), the fourth season of “The Only Way is Essex” (in February), season two of “Prisoners of War” (in the spring) and season two of “Pramface” (spring). Other new series debuting are “Bracquo,” a cop show that has won an International Emmy for Best Drama (Jan. 22) and “Mother Up,” an adult sitcom starring Eva Langoria that starts this fall.

The networks that own Hulu could stand to watch some of the stuff theirmoney is buying.  

Tags: online video
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