Hulu Rising: How ‘That TV Thing’ Is Now Taking On Netflix

Breakthroughs are the result of exhaustive planning, nearly perfect execution and, honestly, a lot of luck. They’re what separates the bad from the good and the good from the great.

If all of the carefully positioned pieces fall how they’re supposed to, 2015 could be looked at as Hulu’s breakthrough to the next level.

Over the past few months, the streaming service has been not-so-quietly at work to bring together a diverse list of programming options to enhance its presence in the streaming industry and take on Netflix. Most recently, it finalized a multi-year deal with the Epix to take big name films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Transformers: Age of Extinction and World War Z away from Netflix, starting at the beginning of October, with the expectation that more exclusive movie streaming agreements may be on the way. A move that will surely shake the perception that Hulu is merely a place to catch recent reruns of network TV shows. Though, Hulu is still very clearly in the original TV business.

The fast-paced environment of primetime network television has long been known to cut the cord on mildly-received shows with no hesitation. To be fair, it’s a highly competitive market, and the window of opportunity to put out something fresh and get and keep an audience seems to be getting smaller every year. The thing is, the system for judging a show’s viewership is broken. That much was made clear when it was announced that Nielsen would finally start tracking streaming numbers. But that’s little help for shows that have, for whatever reason, found a stronger next day/digital stream audience than they have a typical, “sit on your couch at 8 p.m.” kind if audience.

Luckily for viewers of The Mindy Project, one such show that was tossed overboard after failing to grab numbers that matched its positive buzz and loyal fans, Hulu came in to save the day and revive the show.

Should the Mindy gamble pay off, would it be surprising if Hulu continued to make splashy swoop ins when the nets cancel other shows that might be a better fit for an online streamer? Such a move would certainly help them continue their growth on the original programming front, something they’ve been focused on for awhile.

Look at Difficult People (seriously, look at it), which focuses on two disgruntled New York comedians (Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner) who are looking to catch their break before all of the other annoying people in the world make them lose their minds. After a successful start to its eight-episode run, Hulu renewed the Amy Poehler executive-produced show for a 10-episode season two.

Meanwhile, Seth Rogen just had a pilot picked up by Hulu for Future Man, a half-hour comedy that he and his right-hand man, Evan Goldberg, produced and will direct. It will tell the story of a janitor/gamer who’s tasked with saving the human race from extinction. Add those to shows like The Awesomes, The Real Hotwives, and UK imports like Moone Boy and, while Hulu isn’t yet the comedy equivalent to what Netflix does with prestige drama, they clearly have ambition. And not just with comedy.

On the more serious side of things, James Franco is set to star in 11/22/63, a nine-episode series based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name that tells the story of an English teacher who gets sent back in time and tries to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions is also tied to the series.

Moving away from original programming, Hulu also made headlines when it obtained the streaming rights to Seinfeld, an all-time classic that couldn’t be watched in bulk unless you were willing to go get costly box sets.

The Epix deal, while in the news now, is also merely another building block. Hulu also cut a deal with Showtime to make their programs available for stream for an extra $8.99 a month, providing subscribers with more higher-tier programming.

With Seinfeld, the power of content from producers Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Mindy Kaling, J.J. Abrams, and this new deal with Epix, Hulu could be on the verge of shaking up the streaming giant power rankings while continuing to turn themselves into a destination for both viewers and talent. And that’s a hell of a thing, considering the fact that Hulu had been written off a few years ago.