Hulu challenges cable with first original drama

Sun Jan 15, 2012 5:37pm EST
 
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By Yinka Adegoke

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hulu, the popular online video service, has taken another step to becoming a full-fledged alternative to cable television by commissioning its first scripted original TV show to go live next month.

The new political documentary-style drama "Battleground" is set in Wisconsin and executive-produced by JD Walsh, Hagai Shaham and Marc Webb. It follows Hulu's first original documentary series Morgan Spurlock's "A Day In The Life."

The majority of Hulu's programming to date has been licensed from its parent companies, News Corp, Walt Disney Co and Comcast Corp's NBC Universal, as well as other program makers.

Andy Forsell, Hulu's programming executive, said Spurlock's show had been a success based on data it collected on its audience, but he declined to reveal the program's view counts.

Spurlock's series is being followed up with a second season and being joined by another six-episode documentary series called "Up to Speed" by Richard Linklater, who is perhaps best known for movies "Dazed and Confused" and "School of Rock".

The challenge for Hulu is to ensure it can generate a return on investment in expensive content like scripted drama, which is typically more costly than producing a documentary or reality show.

"We can make the economics work, I've got a budget for originals but there's not the same pressure as a traditional network since we don't have worry about filling airtime," Forsell said.

The original shows will be available on Hulu's free Web service rather than just to its paying Hulu Plus subscribers as the start-up increases its user base and builds its reputation for original programming. But Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar said the dual revenue model of advertising and subscription fees is key to Hulu's future.   Continued...