Upfronts 2012: Hulu Announces New Shows From Seth Meyers, Richard Linklater, More

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The video website reports $420 million in revenue last year, but it is spending even more to develop new shows, including series from Adrian Grenier and Michael Wendschuh.

At a presentation to ad buyers Thursday, Hulu touted its growth, saying its more than 2 million paid subscribers have made its $8-per-month video subscription service the fastest growing in U.S. history. The company also reported $420 million in revenue last year and expressed a commitment to original programming with new series including The Awesomes, from Saturday Night Live star Seth Meyers.

Hulu was the first of many online giants scheduled to roll out their content and meet with advertisers in TV industry style upfront presentations during the next two weeks. In a room that included Meyers, Smash star Megan Hilty, Morgan Spurlock and Adrian Grenier, the company touted that Americans watched 2.5 billion videos on Hulu in February -- about 1,000 videos a second. Hulu also said it held 20 percent of the online video market and 40 percent of the premium video market.

Most of Hulu's traffic comes from the 1,900 TV series on Hulu and Hulu Plus, but the company also has big hopes for its new original programming. Hulu recently has made inroads here by launching the political-themed series Battleground and Spurlock's documentary series, A Day in the Life, and the site introduced its latest programming investments Thursday.

The Awesomes, from Meyers and producer Michael Shoemaker, is about an unassuming superhero and his cohorts who battle diabolical villains, the ever-present paparazzi and a less-than-ideal reputation as second-class crimefighters. The series previously was in development for MTV and has been resurrected.

Hulu also is greenlighting We Got Next, from Kenya Barris (Are We There Yet?), Hale Rothstein (Everybody Hates Chris) and Danny Leiner (The Office), about four unlikely friends who butt heads on the pickup basketball court and on the sidelines of everyday life.

Other new shows include video game industry star Michael Wendschuh's Flow, about an individual's quest for justice and redemption after being framed for a crime, and Grenier's Don't Quit Your Daydream, about famous musicians collaborating with those who gave up their musical ambitions. Up to Speed, a new unscripted show from Richard Linklater about tour guide Timothy Levitch's visits to ignored monuments of America’s cities, was previously announced but also highlighted during the presentation and will be launched in the summer.

Hulu is expanding into original content upon word of some troubles on the acquisition front, including from its entertainment conglomerate owners News Corp., Disney and NBCUniversal. The New York Times recently quoted a TV executive as saying that at the Hulu board level, “there is disagreement about the amount of investment necessary to acquire content for Hulu Plus."

The company reportedly is planning spending $500 million this year to acquire content and enticing producers with the prospect of having greater control over their work.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner