Overview of Hulu:
Before I explain how Hulu fits into the circuit of culture, let me explain what Hulu is. Hulu can be accessed through the internet, or a mobile app. Hulu has developed into one of the most widely used streaming services worldwide since 2010. What some people might not be aware of is how Hulu is becoming a streaming monopoly that provides its customers with more than 70,000 TV episodes and movies. Hulu is the most popular streaming service that provides a wide selection of live and on-demand entertainment, through many different subscription options that provides consumers with full authority over their viewing experiences. Only Hulu’s on-demand service offers access to content from every significant U.S. broadcast network. Hulu has also introduced live TV. Hulu + Live TV provides subscribers 85+ TV channels. From networks and companies like Discovery Networks, Turner Networks, and The Walt Disney Company. These networks can now display their company too many different consumers through the internet all because of Hulu. “Hulu is significant not only for what it does, but how it does it” (Pruitt).
Production of Hulu:
Hulu was created in 2007, by the owner of NBC and Universal Studios, the owner of the Fox Broadcasting Company and 20th Century Fox, and later in 2009, The Walt Disney Company decided to invest their money into Hulu. Providence Equity invested 100 million dollars into Hulu. Also, the owners made distribution deals with AOL, MSN, Myspace, and Yahoo. According to Jeff Zucker, who was the CEO of NBCUniversal at the time, he thought that making one website where millions of people watch videos would be the future (Pruitt). Towards the end of 2007, Jason Kilar was made the official CEO of Hulu. Kilar was the vice president of Amazon’s North American media businesses before becoming the CEO of Hulu (Pruitt). After five years with the company, Kilar resigned from the company on January 4, 2013. After getting all the money and the brains together, the owners first thought it would be a good idea to release a private beta of Hulu at first to see how it would be looked at by the public. The first product Hulu introduced was call Hulu Syndication network. The NBC Universal team that was based out of New York designed the product. The beta had positive first impressions and later, in 2008, Hulu officially launch on the internet as a website called Hulu.com. This website’s goal was to provide users with free, ad-supported television. Hulu kept of growing and growing throughout the years. Eventually, in 2019, Disney took over Hulu and acquired 60% of all its stakes (HelpLama 2022). Today, the president of Hulu is Joe Earley. Joe takes care of on-demand and live streaming organizations within the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution segment. While Joe was working for Disney, he in charge of making Disney known globally. Joe and his team were the ones responsible for the Disney+ going global. Prior to working at Disney, Joe worked for Fox as an executive for 20 years. During Super Bowl XLII, Hulu’s first advertising commercial aired. Casting the star Alec Baldwin as “Alec in Huluwood”.
Consumption of Hulu:
In 2010, the company changed forever. Hulu introduced a premium subscription plan, which was called Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus was an ad-supported subscription that costed $9.99 per month. The consumers received unlimited access to full seasons runs of shows from Fox, ABC, and NBC in HD. However, as the company continued to gain popularity, Hulu was able to offer the subscription across many different platforms, which was smart for Hulu to do. Platforms like iPhone, iPad, PCs, Samsung Blu-ray players, and at the time even the PlayStation 3. Since 2010, Hulu has been offering multiple plans and prices for the consumption of their service. Now, subscribers could pay $14.99 per month for the no ad-supported. If someone did not want to pay that much money, they could purchase the $7.99 per month ad-supported plan. As Hulu continued to grow, Hulu was able to introduce many more subscription plans to accommodate their consumers. For example, Hulu is offering $68.99 per month for live TV only. This plan does not include any shows or films from the Hulu library. Another example is the Disney Bundle. This bundle combines Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ together for an all in one price. The price may change depending on if you want ads or not. Hulu + Live TV costs $69.99 per month. Hulu + Live TV offers subscribers live news, sports, and several of the top television channels. You can also watch your favorite Hulu programs as well with this subscription plan. This subscription plan is helpful toward consumers because it helps the consumer eliminate extra cable fees. Such as, broadcast television fees and regional sports fees.
At first, Hulu was created for anyone to who wanted to subscribe to a unique streaming service. Now, Hulu is targeted towards adults especially because of the Disney Bundle. Disney+ is heavily aimed towards young children. With Disney+ in the mix, Hulu does not need to target young children. In September 2011, Hulu hit 1 million subscribers. In 2016, Hulu reached 12 million subscribers. Hulu was and is still rapidly growing. As of November 2022, they have reached 47.2 million paid subscribers in the United States. Their main competitor, Netflix, has about 223 million subscribers but Hulu is only streamed in the United States and Japan, so it does not have the advantage that Netflix has being able to stream worldwide. Hulu’s revenue has changed over the last 12 years in a positive way. In 2022, Hulu’s revenue was $10.7 billion. The revenue in 2022 increased by $1.1 billion from the year 2021.
Identity of Hulu:
Hulu’s identity has always been changing since its official launch back in 2007. The original identity for Hulu was never entirely expected to have a profitable launch in 2008. Hulu’s first identity was for the “investors to earn a return through an eventual private sale or initial public offering” (Sanson and Steirer). Hulu’s identity is set to always change due to how their structure of ownership works. For example, back in 2009, Hulu already was owned by three of the four broadcasters. Therefore, Hulu was looked at as a critical part of the broadcasting industry (Sanson and Steirer). Also in 2009, The Walt Disney Company took 30% stake in the company. Multiple owners wanted to immediately sell the company and other owners wanted to wait invest more money into the company. The company’s identity was constantly changing throughout the first 5 years of its existence (Sanson and Steirer). The company’s identity went through another large change when Comcast got involved in 2011. Companies like Disney, Fox, and Comcast were given a third of the company when Time-Warner took over 10% share of the company (Sanson and Steirer). Hulu’s identity has been set to change forever.
Representation of Hulu:
One might ask how does representation fit into the circuit of culture? Representation, according to the circuit of culture means how the company presents itself to its customers. Hulu launches their new content on a weekly release schedule, unlike like most of their competitors. By Hulu operating on a weekly release schedule, this allows the company to maintain the “buzz” constantly (Sanson and Steirer). The hit series, The Handmaids’s Tale, constantly continued to have the attention of its viewers throughout its 2-month release schedule. Releasing their content weekly, also benefits with reducing subscriber churn and the marketing efforts of the company. In comparison to one of Hulu’s most competitive rivals, Netflix, a popular Netflix original series typically starts to become less popular within a week after it is released (Sanson and Steirer). A schedule aesthetic is strategy that Hulu practices to structure how users get to view their platform. “Hulu’s visual interface foregrounds the temporality of its content, informing users not only when a new episode of a show they watch has been made available, but also when the next episode will appear and when older episodes are set to expire” (Sanson and Steirer). Schedule aesthetic is a simple and effective way that Hulu presents its image to its subscribers.
“The new look aims to simplify the entertainment platform’s identity, while “keep hold of the swagger” that viewers know and love” (Long). In 2021, Hulu went through an entire rebranding process. The reason why Hulu decided to rebrand is because they wanted to improve their company’s identity. In the middle of the screen there is a giant let’s go button. The main idea for the giant let’s go button is that Hulu can be look at as the starting point for someone’s adventure through all the networks the company has to offer. The let’s go button is a great rebranding for Hulu because it expresses everything Hulu is about. DixonBaxi was the extremely talented brand agency who was responsible for the Hulu rebranding. According to the design director of DixonBaxi, Astrid D’Hondt, Astrid considers Hulu a vessel. This is because Hulu is a vessel in which many people can access their desirable TV shows and films (Long). Astrid wanted to keep Hulu’s original green color as well. According to Astrid, she explained Hulu’s original green color as a “key differentiating element”. The reason behind Astrid wanted to keep the green color was because she saw the company having a stronger brand equity. In Long’s article, Astrid states, “We wanted to keep hold of these elements, learn from them, while developing a new story, a new set of design principles and a system that brought brand and product together like never before”.
Regulation of Hulu:
Hulu had a positive impact on copyright laws. Copyright laws have always started controversy between the creators and the content distributors, but the Hulu model can eliminate the controversy. Hulu has the possibility to “disrupt the status quo in television and tweak the role played by copyright law” (Pruitt). The Hulu model most likely will change one of the larger regulations to internet video. Hulu will allow the content owners to have success because no one else owns the distribution but the content owners (Pruitt). There will be no restrictions for the multiple networks to convey the content straight to consumers. However, due to Hulu’s positive impact on copyright laws, many people do not agree with the Hulu model. According to copyright scholar, Robert Patry, “Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being to encourage learning and the creation of new works” (Pruitt). Hulu finds a way around the copyright regulation. By Hulu having full control over the content it distributes, it can be possible that Hulu will leave a huge impact on the internet video business and the traditional television business as well (Pruitt).
Hulu also has user eligibility and registration regulations as well. According to their terms and conditions page of their website, only people who live in the United States are able to sign up for a Hulu account. The resident must be older than 13 years of age in order to properly register for a Hulu account. If you are between the ages 13 and 18 and want to register for a Hulu account, then you must get permission from your parent or guardian. If you decide that Hulu is not the streaming service for you, then you may cancel. The cancellation of your subscription would come into effect toward the end of the period. Cancellation will come into effect immediately if you registered for a promotion code or free trial.
Conclusion of Hulu:
After a thorough breakdown of Hulu, one can see that Hulu can be viewed through all aspects of the circuit of culture. Whether its humble beginnings as a joint venture in production, consistently growing in consumption, bridging the gap between content creators and distributors in regulation, operating on a weekly release schedule and going through a rebranding process in representation, or dealing with multiple changes of ownership in identity. Hulu will always be one of the world’s best streaming hubs forever.
Curry, David. “Hulu Revenue and Usage Statistics (2022).” Business of Apps, June 27, 2022. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/hulu-statistics/
Hosch, William. “Hulu.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, inc. Accessed November 9, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hulu.
Long, Molly. “Dixonbaxi Unifies Hulu’s Identity in Rebrand.” Design Week, April 8, 2021. https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/5-11-april-2021/dixonbaxi-hulu-rebrand/
Pruitt, Henry. “Hulu’s Impact on Television and Copyright Law,” 2010.
Sanson, Kevin, and Gregory Steirer. “Hulu, Streaming, and the Contemporary Television Ecosystem.” Media, Culture & Society 41, no. 8 (2019): 1210–27. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/0163443718823144
Utreja, Kushal. “Hulu Revenue and Usage Statistics 2022.” Helplama.com, September 16, 2022. https://helplama.com/hulu-revenue-usage-statistics/#:~:text=Hulu%20Key%20Users%20Stats,has%2046.8%20million%20paying%20subscribers.&text=Hulu%20users%20are%20estimated%20to%20reach%20115.6%20million%20by%202024.&text=With%20the%20help%20of%20a,of%20Hulu%20users%20is%2031.