Cord cutters, you now have another company vying for your streaming attention with original programming: Hulu. The streaming video service has followed Netflix’s recent foray into original programming with a series of its own called Battleground. The Hulu series’ first two episodes are currently available as of today for free, and Hulu plans to release a new episode every week on Tuesday.
Hulu’s first original scripted series is the work of JD Walsh, best known as Gordon on the TV show Two and a Half Men. In Battleground, Walsh has created a thirty minute “workplace drama” set in Madison, Wisconsin, which follows a state senators’ campaign as she runs for the United States Senate. The series’ principal character seems to be Chris ‘Tak’ Davis, played by Jay Hayden, who is head of the senators campaign strategy.
While the series uses the mock documentary style popularized by The Office, as well as the dry humor that seems to go well with that style of shooting, JD Walsh stresses that the show isn’t Parks & Recreation: “There are definitely times where you’re going to laugh in this show. But we wanted the show to live in the world with human interaction and give it its own reality.” Despite the political setting, the stress is on love and human relationships. Incidentally, Walsh makes sure the senators political affiliation is left ambiguous.
Netflix unveiled its first, and well-promoted, original series Lilyhammer last week. The series stars Steve Vand Zandt, from HBO’s Sopranos series, as New York gangster Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano who is stuck in a US witness protection program in the upstanding little town of Lilyhammer; it’s your standard fish-out-of-water comedy. Lilyhammer‘s eight episode first season is currently available for US, Canada, and Latin America-based Watch Instantly customers.
While Hastings’ new exclusive content plan has Netflix chasing after HBO, the streaming giant may have to watch its back. Hulu isn’t the only company pushing into the untested original content streaming arena. Adage pointed out earlier this week that Amazon is currently seeking creative execs to “help develop half-hour comedies for online and tradition distribution.” While original scripted streaming content is uncharted territory, Adam Hanft, CEO of the Hanft Projects marketing firm, believes that out of the current crop Amazon would be the most successful of the services at finding an audience for its programming.
However, Netflix has the lead. As it is, Battleground seems like a weaker push since it lacks the big name actor that Lilyhammer has. Then there’s Netflix’s exclusive Arrested Development season, as well as the upcoming House of Cards series starring Kevin Spacey. According to Bloomberg, Netflix wants to have five originals set for 2013, including a 13-episode horror series called Hemlock Grove, as well as a new series from Weeds’ creator Jenji Kohan called Orange is the New Black. Netflix is in a tenuous position, with competitors ahead, adjacent and building up steam from behind; but the company believes that with the original program offerings, as well as integration with Facebook, Netflix could possibly grow three times faster than HBO.
Hulu may be treading into Netflix’s territory, but the company doesn’t seem to be interested in going head-to-head with Netflix. Hulu CEO Jason Kilar recently said that, “it’s important for us to differentiate the service and create content not out there right now…But it’s not ‘the thing’ on our agenda; it’s part of it.