Last year, Netflix signed a multimillion dollar deal to score the rights to Kevin Spacey’s show, House of Cards, which will start filming in March. That marked the television-streaming giant’s first foray into original programming, and since then, Netflix has followed up with mobster series Lilyhammer, debuting in February.
Not to be outdone by the competition, Hulu has decided to aim for more original programming too, after its first documentary series ended up being successful last year. Its first independent fictional television series, Battleground, is a political drama from JD Walsh and Marc Webb, set to debut in February.
Hulu is also beefing up its original documentary offerings, adding a second season of Morgan Spurlock’s A Day in the Life, which documents the lives of people like Richard Branson and will.i.am, and Up to Speed, about neglected monuments in the United States.
With cable providers pulling out of deals with sites like Netflix and Hulu, original programming is a back up that can potentially keep the TV and movie sites alive. In recent weeks, both HBO and Starz announced the future termination of agreements with Netflix, though Hulu is safe for the moment.
Hulu currently has more than 1.5 million paying subscribers, a number that’s grew rapidly in 2011 after Hulu added 105% more content for its Plus customers, netting the company $420 million in revenue. The loss of network deals right now would be devastating, so Hulu has dedicated $500 million for content deals for 2012, and it’s likely that a portion of that is earmarked for its foray into scripted shows.
Original programming is still in its early stages, but it could prove to be a huge boon for both Netflix and Hulu. Thus far, they’re the only two services that have adopted original content, but perhaps Apple and Amazon may follow in their footsteps if the shows catch on.
All of Hulu’s original content will be available for both free viewers and those who subscribe to Hulu Plus, with shows coming in February, March, and during the summer.