Hulu Chief Says Library Acquisitions, Like 'Golden Girls,' Still a Key to Streamer's Strategy

Craig Erwich says the recent deal for the vintage NBC comedy is very much in line with the non-original efforts to expect from the streamer.
Courtesy of Photofest
'The Golden Girls'

Nearing the three-year mark of his tenure at Hulu, Craig Erwich already has a lot to show for his time as the streamer's head of content.

Comedy Casual gifted Hulu with a Golden Globe nomination, miniseries 11.22.63 was dubbed a success by internal metrics and the upcoming adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale already is gaining serious heat. So it's a little funny that, with all of those original efforts, Erwich says the upcoming addition of The Golden Girls repeats has been a source of particular excitement.

"Part of our strategy is to have the iconic shows that are timeless," Erwich told the crowd during a Tuesday panel at the National Association of Television Programming Executives conference in Miami. "As a digital, on-demand platform, we can share this show with the next generation of television viewers."

The Golden Girls ran for seven seasons on NBC. Its first-time streaming pact will put the unedited versions online in February, after decades of only being available in a trimmed, syndicated format. It joins Seinfeld, a pricey addition to the Hulu library that cost a reported $180 million back in 2015. Erwich does not want to stop there.

"If we could get The Big Bang Theory, that's one of the best comedy series on TV, and it's not on any streaming service yet," said Erwich, adding that he probably drove up the price just by mentioning it.

Scripted originals remain the best way to make noise in the digital space — and, well, anywhere. Erwich says that Hulu will continue to be strategic about its growing efforts in the space, with an eye on event projects like 11.22.63 and heavy reliance on its own proprietary data on viewing habits, in addition to the actual pitches coming in.

"With the originals, we're looking to define our brand rather than to fit in a bucket," he said. "What we really look at is user groups — subscribers who coalesce around the same type of content. You try to look at things through behavior more than what you would traditionally call a demographic."

Still the next-day home for vast quantities of broadcast network series, Erwich also emphasized that evolving the interface and its usability as top priorities. It's one he hopes will solidify Hulu, and not just its shows, as a brand for TV fans.

"One of the things we strive for is to not just have the best shows, but to have the best environment," said Erwich. "As we build that out, there will be more content around the shows. People have very personal relationships with television. People talk about how they love their shows, but they don't say that about their pay television services."