Remember Hulu—that website with choppy rips of three-day-old TV episodes and too many unnecessary toothpaste commercials? It’s time to give it another chance.
On the original programming level, Hulu can’t yet compete with Netflix (“Orange is the New Black”), Amazon Prime (“Transparent”) or HBO (too many to mention), but the streaming network’s announcement last week gave me at least five reasons to believe CEO Mike Hopkins’ comment that “2015 is the year that Hulu will break out.”
1. Fewer Commercials
The biggest knock on Hulu has been that you pay $8 a month—the same monthly fee as commercial-free Netflix and Amazon Prime—but have to endure ads inserted several times within each episode. I have been demoing Hulu for the last week, and I can testify that watching the ads takes roughly the same time as fast-forwarding through them on your DVR.
Don’t get me wrong, I would gladly pay another couple of bucks a month for an ad-free tier of the service—are you listening Hulu?—but the four or so ad spots in a half-hour show is a small sacrifice to make for the roughly $100 a month I formerly paid for cable service. Plus, Hulu touted in the announcement that holding down the number of ads is key to their brand.
2. The “Walking Dead” Spinoff
Hulu is going to become the exclusive streaming network for AMC shows, which means you won’t need cable to see the new seasons of “Better Call Saul,” “Halt and Catch Fire,” “The Walking Dead,” or the summer spinoff series “Fear the Walking Dead."
3. Seinfeld Uncut
The big news from the announcement was that all nine seasons of “Seinfeld” will stream exclusively on Hulu beginning in June. The reported $160 million price tag is steep—roughly the cost of two months of service for all nine million of Hulu’s customers—but the signal is clear: Hulu wants you to know that it’s going to invest in content. Plus, the episodes will be the original network version and not the syndicated versions with two minutes cut out of each episode.
4. J.J. Abrams and James Franco's Original Series
J.J. Abrams left London, where he’s finishing up “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” just to appear at the announcement with actor James Franco for “11/22/63," their forthcoming Hulu series that will be adapted from the Stephen King novel about a history teacher (Franco) who goes back in time to try and prevent the JFK assassination.
5. A New Slate of Shows
It’s too early to tell whether 2015 will be its breakout year for original shows, but Hulu has hired some of the top producers and showrunners in the business for the new slate of shows. Jason Reitman, Seth Meyers, and Amy Poehler all spoke at the Hulu announcement about upcoming shows;Poehler’s “Difficult People,” which stars comics Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner and will premiere in August, looks especially promising.
Photos by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Hulu