With Disney + just five days after the launch, it is easy to assume that Disney executives would like to talk to investors about the expected streaming service during the fourth quarter. Instead, Disney CEO Bob Iger spent much of the time talking about another important streaming service that the company owns – Hulu.
Hulu has now more than 28.5 million subscribers, but it is lack of original programming compared to Netflix and larger libraries from incoming competitors such as HBO Max and Peacock can make Hulu unnecessary for subscribers. Now that Disney Fox owns, FX can change that.
Hulu will be the first home base for streaming FX titles from March 2020, Iger announced during a telephone conversation with investors. FX is one of the most prestigious networks, often seen in the same spirit as HBO. Known for absurd comedies and groundbreaking dramas, FX has won 57 Emmy since 2014 and won more Golden Globes than HBO, Netflix and Amazon Prime for shows like American Crime Story, Pose, Fargo, and The Americans. Having FX content exclusively on Hulu immediately gives the streaming service a prestige.
As part of the package, four upcoming FX series, including Alex Garland & # 39; s (Ex Machina) new show The United States, will not be broadcast on FX at all, but will exist as Hulu-exclusive. "FX on Hulu", as it is called, also means that the most current and all-new FX series are available to watch on Hulu immediately after the show's broadcast.
FX being a prominent place on Hulu is not so surprising. Iger has touted the partnership between Hulu and FX on previous income calls, but part of his series transferred to Hulu would be a major shift for the linear channel. John Landgraf, the visionary head of FX, has repeatedly spoken about the potential harmful effects of streaming services and companies such as Netflix while acknowledging that this is where the industry goes. He recently defended parent company Disney's decision not to run Netflix ads on its entertainment networks (such as ABC), and explained that he "would rather not share scarce resources in an environment where we fight for our lives. "
Now that Hulu and FX are about to become interconnected partners, Landgraf reiterated that what made FX special – the quality of his shows – would not change. "We are more committed than ever to quality over quantity, with our primary focus on excellence that can break the mess in a time of unprecedented consumer choice," Landgraf said in a press release.
However, the public will notice one change in FX regardless of where they view it: there will be more. Land grave told reporters in August following a call from Disney investors that FX will increase its output to a level that the network has never seen. As we see at HBO, scale is important when it comes to streaming, and having a constant series of new shows is a strategy that many companies gamble on. Unlike companies like Netflix, which Landgraf has criticized in the past, FX will not "go fast and break things" to keep up.
"Programming as much as possible, as fast as we can, has never worked for FX," said Landgraf.
Find the balance between having good shows and movies, and offers a constant stream of new content is what streaming services such as Netflix have difficulty solving the problem. Disney wants to use Fox's most popular and beloved networks and studios – not just FX, but also Fox Searchlight – to meet both requests. Iger suggested that once the Fox Searchlight output deal with HBO (owned by WarnerMedia, owned by AT&T) expires, that studio will also create exclusive content for Hulu. It is likely that Fox Searchlight will also make films for theater consumption, but others will become exclusive streaming, unlike the four FX shows.
License agreements are complicated. It is why certain FX titles, such as Pose and American crime storyis not immediately available on Hulu. Iger noticed something like that during the call, but he wants to bring so much exclusive content from powerful studios to Hulu. 20th Century Fox also has a deal with HBO, but once that ends, it's likely that Fox movies will go to Hulu exclusively. Disney is already doing this with its own films. For example, the live action version of The Lady and the Tramp was supposed to be a theatrical release, but ended up being an exclusive Disney + launch title.
When people go to the theater to watch movies and blockbusters from specific franchises – Marvel, Star Wars, DC, Pixar, Avatar, etc. – Hulu can become a place to riskier bets that don't perform so well at the counter. Iger told investors that Disney executives do not consider streaming services as & entities for themselves, but rather as a broader game of making money. & # 39; Streaming is only one way for exclusive content, offset by theatrical releases and live television.
Movies from Fox Searchlight and FX originals on Hulu is important to Iger. He told investors that while the streaming atmosphere is becoming more competitive, people are still attracted to brands they recognize. FX and Fox Searchlight are prestigious names and have an ideal identity with Hulu. "FX is becoming an important driving factor for Hulu," Iger said.
It is especially important in the light of general streaming services for entertainment such as HBO Max (not to be confused with HBO Now) and Peacock launch in the coming months. These streaming services, to which Hulu demonstrably belongs, have less identity than a platform such as Disney + or Crunchyroll, and rely on a large number of shows and films that are attractive to a broad subscriber base.
What is clear from the most recent Disney call for calls is that despite all the attention Disney + gets for the launch, Hulu still matters, and more importantly, Disney wants to keep Hulu worthy of your monthly subscription budget. It may have felt like Disney was forgetting Hulu while preparing for the launch of Disney +, but it is clear from today's call that this is far from the case.