By the time the opportunity came up for Hulu to pick up new seasons of former Fox comedy “The Mindy Project” as an original, the streamer had already been in the production game for four years. It started in 2011 with Morgan Spurlock’s docu-series “A Day in the Life” and expanded greatly in 2013 with such projects as the animated comedy “The Awesomes,” as well as the supernatural comedy “Deadbeat.” The move of “The Mindy Project” from the acquired streaming rights into its original content slate was not inexpensive, but Hulu’s head of content, Craig Erwich, still says it was a “no-brainer.”
“The show was still creatively excellent, and there was still clearly a demand for it,” Erwich says of the appetite around “The Mindy Project” when Hulu ordered a 26-episode fourth season in 2015. “And Mindy has a unique and endearing personality and sense of style and self-awareness of the comedy of the show that felt like a personification of all things Hulu.”
The first three seasons of “The Mindy Project” were strong performers for Hulu, which took quick notice of the devout fanbase around the show and around Mindy Kaling herself. Furthermore, though, Erwich says, Kaling was “always a part of the family” because she had worked with the streamer to promote its services to advertisers during upfronts ceremonies while they were licensing her show.
As an up-and-comer in the original content game, Hulu was then (and still is) looking to be an environment where “people can do their best, most authentic and creative work,” Erwich says. Hulu did not want to “put a stamp” on the show when ordering new episodes, but instead allow Kaling’s vision to live on. “Our job was just to be a facilitator and keep her connected to her audience,” Erwich says.
Picking up “The Mindy Project” helped Hulu further flesh out its comedy brand, as it was of a genre (romcoms) that was becoming increasingly rare. By continuing to provide new and celebrated content in that vein, opportunities opened up to service a specific kind of customer longer-term. “There was a small movie called ‘Joshy’ we picked up because we thought people who watched ‘The Mindy Project’ would like it,” Erwich says. “That’s how you build a service that has value for your viewers.”
A creator such as Kaling coming to Hulu also opened it up to other, bigger-name collaborations and business ventures. “Anytime someone like Mindy, who is revered in the comedy world, comes to your platform and says, ‘I want to work with these guys’ and can vouch for you, it creates opportunities. You’re only as good as your relationships,” Erwich says.
“Mindy has a unique and endearing personality and sense of style and self-awareness of the comedy of the show that felt like a personification of all things Hulu.”
Hulu has recently added Robert Smigel, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to that list of key comedic talent relationships.
But “The Mindy Project” also helped create critical and social buzz for Hulu because of the “brand and pop culture dynamo” that Erwich credits Kaling with being. She brought a “specific set of values” along with her “wholly original” show that had a “unique tone all its own.” All of these things combined led to Hulu increasing its subscribers, as well as increasing its accolades, acquisitions and roster of prolific programming.
“I’ve often said if you think about who is the best person to represent Hulu, it would be Mindy,” Erwich says. “There has been a weekly excitement when the shows are rolling out. People are talking about the show externally and internally, and people are talking about Hulu.”