Hulu doubles paid subscribers, now 4 million strong

Hulu to pull the plug on cable-cutting consumers?

Hulu has announced that it was able to sign up double the number of paid subscribers to its Plus service in just the last 12 months, with four million now paying monthly to view content on the popular platform.

Hulu Plus was first introduced in 2010 as a subscription that would unlock all the content available on the site over and above what was already being offered for free. All told, Hulu says it now has 470 content partners providing over 70,000 full TV episodes on its free and Plus services combined. Both News Corp. and Disney jointly own the service, along with other media entities, but both have expressed interest in selling Hulu.

Hulu’s acting CEO, Andy Forssell, made no mention of the ownership situation in his statement, sticking to the numbers that show four million total paid subscribers and “record revenue” in the first quarter without elaborating on what that number was. The company had reported that it earned $695 million in revenue in 2012, so it’s unclear what the record actually is, or what timeframe it’s based on.

He did say that living room viewing makes up 29 percent of the audience, but that mobile viewing was growing faster, hitting the current rate of 15 percent.

The next step for Hulu looks to be original content and special licensing deals akin to what rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime are already doing. Two shows, Quick Draw and The Awesomes, are kicking off this latest original content drive, though previous attempts were already made in the past with Morgan Spurlock’s A Day in the Life documentary series and Battleground, a political sitcom. Even two soap operas that were cancelled, All My Children and One Life to Live, found new life this week on Hulu after an online production company called Prospect Park managed to resurrect them.

Two other original series will premiere on Hulu later this year, Behind the Mask, a series about sports mascots, and The Wrongs Mans, a BBC-Hulu co-production about two innocent men tangled in a criminal conspiracy.

The company is also pursuing “brand contingent” shows that would only see production if there was advertising revenue to specifically support them. Two ideas floating around are a performance series hosted by Carson Daly and celebrity-related series with chef Mario Batali playing host.

As original online content and licensing deals heat up, shows from yesteryear are becoming commodities again, where old episodes can drive revenue and support newer shows made for non-traditional content producers and services. It will be interesting to see if Hulu can double up again a year from now.

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