Trying to hold its own against Netflix and other new-age TV programmers, Hulu is partnering with Lionsgate Television to co-produce "Deadbeat" -- a supernatural comedy series from the same guys who
helped create FX’s Wilfred.
Hulu and the TV division of Lionsgate have ordered 10 episodes of the show from co-creators Cody Heller and Brett Konner, the first-time partners announced
The half-hour series centers on a psychic who helps New York ghosts settle unfinished business with the living.
Analysts applauded the deal on Tuesday.
“Hulu’s back in the game since its recent infusion of cash and the game from here on out will require funding, interesting new series as a way to draw in a unique audience, and attract
other producers who have hopes of being funded,” said James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “That's how you avoid the commoditization that is likely to strike online
video providers that merely pass through the same content that others already have.”
From Netflix to Amazon to Hulu, premium video platforms have realized the best way to stand out is
with quality original programming. Premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime pioneered this strategy years ago, but it took them considerably longer to reach the top of their game.
Netflix -- which only broke into original programming this year -- recently received 14 Emmy nominations. "House of Cards," the company’s first original series, was responsible for nine of
“Partnering with a solid name like Lionsgate legitimizes Hulu's position, makes it clear that Hulu is playing with the big boys rather than funding the
… kind of second-tier producers that often turn up on YouTube,” McQuivey added. "That can help attract an audience, as Netflix has shown, and it can help attract advertisers, as I'm sure
Hulu is hoping to do.”
“Deadbeat” will be distributed domestically on Hulu and Hulu Plus next year; Lionsgate will distribute the show internationally. Troy Miller -- of
“Arrested Development” and "Flight of the Conchords" fame -- has been brought on to direct and executive produce all of the episodes through his banner Dakota Pictures. Brad Pitt’s
Plan B Entertainment’s Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Sarah Esberg will produce. Production is scheduled to begin this fall.
This is not Hulu’s only foray into original
content. The company flaunted several offerings at The Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in July.
Hulu plans to debut six episodes of “The Wrong Mans” by early
November, it said this summer. Co-produced by the BBC, the show follows two low-level office workers who get caught up in a deadly criminal conspiracy. Following Netflix’s lead, Hulu also
recently announced plans to facilitate “content binging” by providing all episodes of original series at once to paying subscribers.
By the end of the year, Hulu expects to have
launched about 20 titles, including shows like “The Awesomes,” “Quick Draw,” and “Behind the Mask” -- slated for release by late October. Within two years, Hulu
will have upwards of 40 titles to its name, Andy Forssell, acting chief executive officer, said this summer.
This year, Hulu also plans to stream several new exclusive shows, including
“Run,” a four-part drama about inner city life; “Fugget About It,” an animated sitcom about the misadventures of former mob boss Jimmy Falcone; and “The Strange
Calls,” about bizarre late-night phone calls in a place where people turn to chickens and mermen go to the school dance.
Hulu is owned by Walt Disney’s ABC, 21st Century
Fox’s Fox and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. The 5-year-old venture offers content from the owners -- both with a free and paid offering -- and has more recently been expanding into original
The owners reported that Hulu has 30 million-plus monthly unique visitors, and posted $690 million in revenue last year