NewFronts: Hulu Says Goodbye to the Plus, Hello to Jerry Seinfeld

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Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins

CEO Mike Hopkins announced in New York that Hulu has seen 50 percent growth in subscribers to nearly 9 million.

Hulu might be a digital platform, but its pitch to ad buyers is that the brand is all about TV. 

A big part of the streamer's presentation focused on its library of exclusive TV programming, including new additions Seinfeld and Fear the Walking Dead

It's a strategy that has paid off, CEO Mike Hopkins bragged on stage. The company has seen a 50 percent increase in subscriptions since 2014, and its Hulu Plus product is up to nearly 9 million subscribers. In the first quarter of the year, more than 700 million hours of programming were streamed, an 83 percent jump over last year. 

"2015 is the year that Hulu will break out," Hopkins also said. "We are investing significantly in content and tech. We're hired an army of the brightest engineers to bring a better, simpler and more personalized experience." 

Here are the takeaways from the presentation: 

Exclusivity Is Key
Under Hopkins and content chief Craig Erwich, Hulu has bulked up its offering of exclusive TV content with an eye for building a more robust subscriber base. "Exclusive deals with networks and studios set Hulu apart," Hopkins said on stage. "This strategy is paying off." The AMC deal brings hugely popular TV franchise The Walking Dead to Hulu through its spinoff and also adds programming from AMC Networks channels IFC, BBC America, Sundance TV and WEtv. The Seinfeld deal brings all nine season of the classic show to Hulu subscribers. They join Fox's Empire, FXX Fargo, South Park on Hulu. 

Bye Bye Plus
The Plus in Hulu Plus is no longer, senioe vp advertising sales Peter Naylor announced on stage. "We will just be the Hulu minus the Plus," he said. "Focusing on one brand will be much more effective." The move is designed to create less brand confusion, Hopkins tells The Hollywood Reporter, but little else will change for consumers. Of course, that isn't stopping some people from mourning the loss of the Plus. "Our condolences to the Plus in Hulu Plus," Amy Poehler later said on stage while promoting new series Difficult People. Creator and co-star Julie Klausner added: "We thought it had the potential of the dot in 7 Up." 

Stars Drive New Series
Hulu didn't announce any new series on Wednesday, but the creators and stars of several of its upcoming slate were trotted out on stage. With big names like J.J. Abrams, Poehler, Jason Katims and Jason Reitman behind the shows, the message was clear: Hulu wants to be known as a place for premium programming. Hopkins says that Hulu will put big marketing efforts behind these shows and their stars as they roll them out to viewers. 

Hulu Programming is TV Programming
Although the streamer presents during a NewFronts week full of digital producers touting short-form series, Hulu wants to be known as a place for TV. That's why it calls its presentation an UpFront, in a nod to the TV UpFronts also taking place in April and May. On Wednesday, Hulu touted stats that the platform now has more than 111,000 full episodes of TV and more than 3,600 TV series. 

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