Hulu added another 8M subscribers in 2018 and closed its fiscal year with more than 25M total subscribers across its subscription on demand (SVOD) and live TV plans in the U.S. That is a 48% subscriber increase year over year and pushes Hulu’s customer reach beyond that of the country’s largest cable and satellite pay TV providers. While Hulu is become a major threat to traditional cable companies, don’t forget that you probably rely on a cable company to watch Hulu.
“Consumers have spoken loudly about their desire for more choice and control in their TV experience. They are seeing the enormous benefits of streaming, they’re deciding which content and brands are most important to them, and they’re choosing Hulu,” said Hulu CEO Randy Freer. “In 2018, Hulu led the industry in attracting and engaging subscribers, building a powerful technology stack and cultivating a brand that both consumers and advertisers love. Looking ahead, Hulu is in the best position to be the #1 choice for TV – live and on-demand, with and without commercials, both in and out of the home.”
According to the company, viewers who subscribe to Hulu + Live TV actually spend 50% of their time watching on-demand or recorded programming. To fuel its momentum, Hulu invested significantly in securing exclusive content and enhancing its streaming technology to support a superior experience across its live and on-demand plans.
In 2018, Hulu expanded its on-demand library to over 85,000 episodes. Those included The Good Doctor, Killing Eve, The Orville, Superstore, and Grown-ish. Hulu is now the exclusive home to every season of former and current series like ER, Lost, King of the Hill, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, Living Single, and Animaniacs.
In Hulu Originals, which received a company record of 27 Emmy nominations in 2018, viewers can watch full seasons of nearly all (80%) of this past year’s Emmy-nominated programming.
Over the past 12 months, Hulu’s technology and product teams dramatically improved the stability and usability of its Live TV service (Hulu + Live TV), reducing buffering by 90% and introducing new features like live game start notifications and an enhanced channel guide so viewers can get to their favorite content faster. The company also expanded its local affiliate support to over 970 local live stations.
In addition, Hulu added more choice to its content packages in 2018 with the launch of STARZ as its fourth premium content add-on (joining HBO, Cinemax and Showtime) as well as eight live Discovery networks and a new Spanish-language live TV add-on, which includes live programming from ESPN Deportes, Universo, CNN En Español and History Channel En Español.
All of this is excellent news for Hulu and terrible news for traditional cable. The amount of cord-cutters is increasing in each state, as traditional TV starts to deteriorate. Of course, most Americans get their internet service from the same cable company that offered them traditional cable TV. In New York customers have Spectrum, where they can cut the cord but still rely on Spectrum to watch Hulu at home. Cable companies could start charging more for basic internet plans to make up for the loss in cable subscriptions, or limiting how we access sites like Hulu. The possibility that cable companies could start recouping their losses by limiting or pricing out internet access to sites like Hulu is one of the reasons why Net Neutrality is so important. Cable companies could also start charging sites like Hulu a carrier fee, to make up for the cost of the network traffic and the loss in cable sales, which would then increase the cost of Hulu to subscribers. If cable companies then created their own Hulu-like sites, they could up the price on Hulu to make subscribing to the service more than their own in-house streaming service. That would have people jumping from Hulu to the cable company sites, and we are right back where we started.