Hulu CEO Maps Out Growth Plan in Streaming War With Netflix

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Mike Hopkins

"I'm confident we're going to get the content we need to launch this," says Mike Hopkins of the new over-the-top service.

Hulu is prepping to shake up its business next year when it launches a new service that will live stream content from a bundle of broadcast and cable channels. 

The move, which Hulu confirmed Wednesday at its upfront presentation in New York, is the next step for a company that began as a place to watch next-day TV. 

CEO Mike Hopkins explains to The Hollywood Reporter that a number of factors contributed to Hulu's decision to begin working on such a service, which many others, including Apple, have tried.

"From a branding standpoint, we're in a good spot," he says. "We have device ubiquity — our apps are on every device that matters. And when you look at what's happened in broadband over the last two or three years, this is something that can actually work with the networks that exist today. We're in a good spot infrastructure wise." 

The unnamed service also is a part of a larger vision that Hopkins has for Hulu, in which the service will be able to provide a more personalized viewing experience. While he won't go into specifics, he says that all of Hulu will get a lot more personalized over the next year.

"We're really good at predicting the next show you may be interested in, based on the time of day or the device you're on," Hopkins adds. "It's going to be a transformative thing for Hulu and our customers." 

The streamer — which is owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox and silent partner NBCUniversal — is said to be in talks with all three of its owners about licensing their channels for the new live service. But while they have an incentive for Hulu to succeed, it's unclear which other networks will sign up. It was a hurdle that Apple was unable to get past when hammering out plans for its service, which were later abandoned. Without disclosing who Hulu is negotiating with, Hopkins says he is "reasonably confident that we're going to get the content we need to launch this and have it be a very good service."  

During its flashy presentation Wednesday, hosted by Broad City stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Hulu also revealed that it will reach 12 million U.S. subscribers this month. That's a significantly smaller base than Netflix's 47 million domestic members, but Hopkins says he's not concerned about Hulu's positioning in the streaming space.

"Clearly they've got more subscribers at Netflix, but our growth is accelerating," he says. "Over the next few years, we're going to be putting up a lot of big numbers in new subscriber additions because of the content we're developing and product enhancements we're working on." 

Hulu is able to directly chart the growth of subscribers, up from 9 million last year, to the introduction of new programming. Onstage at the event, Hopkins revealed that Hulu had more new subscribers sign up for its service on the day of the 11.22.63 premiere than any other day in Hulu history. And the company delivered more streams during that week than any week in 2015. 

The presentation also featured appearances by Difficult People executive producer Amy Poehler, alongside stars Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner; the casts of Casual and The Path; The Mindy Project creator and star Mindy Kaling; and Hugh Laurie, who will star in upcoming Chance. During the morning, Hulu announced renewals of The Path and The Mindy Project, a Beatles documentary from Ron Howard and a virtual reality concert series with Live Nation.