September 18, 2013
Hulu LLC is once again making significant investments in content, after months in limbo on the auction block. The video-streaming website has struck a pact with BBC Worldwide North America that will bring 144 titles to its service in the first year of the deal. It is Hulu's largest content-licensing deal reached in the two months since it was taken off the auction block, ending a period of uncertainty.
Hulu has made a few other big moves. It recently ordered "Deadbeat," a supernatural comedy from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., one of about 40 original series the company is planning to roll out in coming years. And earlier this month it announced it is adding all four completed seasons of the CBS series "The Good Wife" to its library. "We're kicking back into action," Andy Forssell, Hulu's acting chief executive, said in an interview. "This is us doing a bunch of stuff that we've really wanted to do and had been put on hold for a while." Mr. Forssell also said original programming will grow to 10% to 15% of Hulu's viewing in the next few years from 5% now. "The Awesomes," an animated show for adults, was the first of 20 new shows expected to launch this year on the service.
In July, Hulu's owners-Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox Inc., and Comcast Corp. -decided not to sell the site after fielding bids from companies including DirecTV and AT&T Inc. Instead, they injected $750 million for investments in content as well as technology and people. (21st Century Fox and Wall Street Journal-owner News Corp were part of the same media company until June.) Acquiring high-quality content is imperative for subscription video sites and Hulu was on the sidelines at a critical moment, when rivals including Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. were cutting significant deals.
Despite the new funding it has, Hulu still faces hurdles going up against those deep-pocketed competitors. Netflix spends over $2 billion annually on content. The multi-year BBC Worldwide North America agreement will add shows such as "Doctor Who," "Torchwood," "Sherlock," "MI-5," and "Luther" to the online service. The content, which includes over 2,000 TV episodes, mostly will be available on the $7.99-per-month Hulu Plus service, which has more than four million subscribers, though some will also be accessible through the ad-supported free version of Hulu. A few hundred episodes will be available this week.
The Hulu arrangement isn't exclusive. BBC Worldwide, which is a subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corp., has similar arrangements in place with Netflix and Amazon. Hulu and BBC Worldwide North America have had a relationship since 2010. Matt Forde, executive vice president of sales and co-productions for BBC Worldwide North America, said some shows that were tougher to distribute to TV channels in the U.S., such as science fiction comedy-drama "Misfits," have found traction at Hulu.
Mr. Forde said Americans are becoming more accepting of British TV as they get more comfortable with accents and increasingly see British actors on U.S. TV series. "The market has evolved," Mr. Forde said. "Audiences just want really good TV." BBC content is available on U.S. TV channels including BBC America, Discovery and Syfy. Mr. Forssell said Hulu will look for opportunities to expand partnerships with pay-TV operators that make Hulu Plus programming available to pay-TV subscribers-an approach commonly referred to as "TV Everywhere." "It is a great concept," he said. "That is an opportunity for us longer-term." Regardless, he said it is unlikely Hulu would ever cease to offer its subscription service as a standalone option, known as "over-the-top." "I think you still have to go over the top to reach some audience-just to get the relationships with those people," he said. Wall Street Journal
State Attorney General Kathleen Kane's top deputy says he's confident the promotion of her twin sister can withstand scrutiny by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission. First Deputy Attorney General Adrian King said Tuesday the promotion of Ellen Granahan as chief of the child predator unit was done the right way for the right reasons.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe called on the ethics panel to investigate at a recent hearing before the State Government Committee, which he chairs. The ethics panel does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. King says he - not Kane - promoted Granahan and she'll report to him in her new job. She was a state prosecutor for five years before Kane became attorney general and had 10 years' experience fighting child predators as a local prosecutor. Associated Press
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