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Hulu, Netflix Escalate Rivalry with Original Series

by January 17, 2012
Hulu, Netflix Escalate Rivalry with Original Series

Hulu, Netflix Escalate Rivalry with Original Series

Hulu, the online bastard-child of ABC, Fox and NBC is launching a salvo at competitor Netflix with the announcement of its own original content. The company’s CEO Jason Kilar says the company will pour about half a billion dollars into original TV shows in 2012. It’s part of the rapidly growing company’s new aggressive attitude, making a stand against the competition. Hulu now proudly boasts one and a half million subscribers and it's only a little over one year into existence. Hulu's first scripted series, a political comedy, will go online next month just in time for the Republican primary.

“We have conviction that digital ultimately becomes the primary way that consumers across the globe choose to access content.” Kilar said on his blog Thursday. Hulu Plus, at $8 per-month, lets users stream previously-aired network programs and its catalog of full seasons for on-demand viewing, similar to Netflix. Hulu also has a free version of its service at Hulu.com. Both services are largely ad-supported, its pay-service annoys users with fewer ads.

Editor's note: One of the most annoying drawbacks of Hulu Plus is its almost deceptive licensing arrangements with content providers and studios. Deceptive in that it's often unclear to subscribers that some of the content they expect to be able to watch isn't available on all platforms. This results in an inordinate amount of confusion as to which content is only available online for PC devices, and the lesser amount which is made available for set-top devices like televisions, Xbox 360, PS3 and Roku devices.

Hulu officially announced “Battleground”, an original, exclusive program on Sunday at the Television Critics' Association's winter press tour. Hulu muscled into the two-week long press tour generally reserved for TV journalists and traditional broadcast media.

An original scripted series is new to Hulu for 2012, but the service has carried original content since last year. Last August Hulu streamed its first show, a documentary series from film-maker Morgan Spurlock (Creator of Super Size Me) called “A Day in the Life”. Season 2 of A Day in the Life will begin this year.

Battleground” is a political satire that might be of interest to fans of shows like The Colbert Report. Created by J.D. Walsh, Battleground will have real-world experiences from which to draw for material, the actor once worked on the John Kerry campaign. The show will focus on a hypothetical Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin and will feature many of the insights from many of Walsh's experiences.

“Up to Speed” is another new original program slated for 2012 by Hulu. This show will be an unscripted look at historic travel destination across the US by film-maker Richard Linklater.

New episodes of all three shows are Hulu exclusives, and will be available on both free Hulu and its Hulu Plus service starting next month.

Not to be outdone, Netflix has an original series of its own set to launch on February 6 called Lilyhammer. Starring Steve Van Zandt (Silvio Dante on The Sopranos and guitarist for the E Street Band), this fish-out-of-water story has a New York gangster move to Lillehammer, Norway. You can see the trailer for Lilyhammer, it looks like it might be pretty good, especially for fans of Van Zandt’s work on The Sopranos.

Netflix has more original series up its sleeve including House of Cards, produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey. Netflix has also picked up a new season of Arrested Development, returning the show to your TV for the first time since 2006.

It might be an all-out ratings war between Hulu and Netflix as they resort to original series in their 'war of escalation'. But from the looks of the talent involved in these projects the only collateral damage might be a few laughs for their customers.

About the author:
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Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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