Hulu Grows to 28 Million Subscribers

Hulu has topped 28 million total subscribers in the United States, continuing its breakneck pace of growth as it competes for a larger share of the crowded streaming market. 

The streaming service grew its base by 40 percent, or around 8 million members, over the last year. During that time, Hulu has sought to attract more subscribers by aggressively cutting the price of its base ad-supported plan to $6 per month and striking a deal to bundle its video service for free with Spotify's premium music subscription.

Not including the 1.3 million people who are signed up for Hulu through promotions like free trials, the service has 26.8 million paid members, up from 23 million at the end of 2018.  

"In today's direct-to-consumer world, viewers are demanding better when it comes to TV — from the user experience to their content choices to the advertising," Hulu CEO Randy Freer said in a statement ahead of the company's Wednesday morning upfront pitch to advertisers. During the annual event, held at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, executives are also expected to unveil plans for two new Marvel series and detail its expansion into unscripted food programming with David Chang, Chrissy Teigen and Vox Media. 

Until recently, Hulu was owned by three equal partners, Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal. Its growth spurt has come during a period of uncertainty as it awaited Disney's $71.3 billion deal for most of Fox, including its stake in Hulu. The transaction, which closed in March, gave Disney a majority ownership stake in Hulu. Though Comcast-owned NBCU wields a fair amount of power as a founding member of the venture with three of its executives on the Hulu board, questions have swirled about how long the company will choose to remain invested in a business now largely controlled by a competitor. AT&T, meanwhile, sold its 10 percent stake in the streamer in April.  

Hulu, which is only available in the U.S., remains smaller than rival Netflix, which at the end of March had more than 60 million domestic paid members. But it is slowly catching up. Over the last five years, Hulu has grown its user base by 133 percent. Netflix, meanwhile, grew its U.S. base by 75 percent during the same period. 

Unlike Netflix, Hulu sells multiple different streaming products to its subscribers, including a $12-per-month ad-free option for watching its on-demand programming and a $45-per-month live-TV service. It has long relied heavily on licensed next-day television and library fare for its programming offering, though in recent years it has invested in expanding its slate of originals. Its breakout came in 2017 with The Handmaid's Tale, starring Elisabeth Moss. Since then, it has expanded into comedy with such series as Ramy and PEN15, both renewed for second seasons Wednesday, and has ordered up more book adaptations, including Catch-22, which premieres May 17, and Nine Perfect Strangersa limited series starring Nicole Kidman