Hulu debuted as a revolutionary plan to let people watch network programming online with the support of the networks. Since then it’s become a prisoner of its own technology and I’m not just talking about the 4 or 5 commercials every few minutes.
Hulu is burying the network programs because most networks also independently offer them. And in a war for content and selling premium memberships, Hulu decided that the way to go was to push “exclusive” British, Australian and Korean programming. There’s probably a place for those things, but it’s probably not at the top.
Click to Hulu expecting to find a network series that aired this week? Good luck. Instead Hulu will push “exclusive” (meaning that it has the US rights to) some Australian, British, Israeli, Korean, Indonesian, Martian series. In the movie section, Hulu will be pushing movie trailers that it probably gets paid to promote.
I’m not going to argue the virtues of some random British version of Sex in the City or Australian version of St. Elsewhere, but Hulu is acting like a low budget local channel in the 80s. It’s not beating Netflix at its own game because Netflix’s game isn’t passing off some British series it picked up on the cheap as premium programming.
Netflix is beating Hulu because its premium programming is real. Hulu could fight back with its own rich slate of network programs and extensive library of classic shows. Until recently, Hulu was offering all seasons of Star Trek TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise even for non-prime users. But few Hulu users would have even realized that because its scroll was pushing some random British shows.
Netflix has plenty of foreign shows, but it doesn’t try to make them into the centerpiece in a desperate effort to convince its users that it can compete with HBO. Hulu keeps shoving The Only Way is Essex to compete with House of Cards.
And that’s a joke that doesn’t even have to be made.
Hulu has gotten worse over the years, but now it’s become its own worst enemy.