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Hulu Picks Up WIGS Series as Fox Expands Beyond YouTube

Scripted drama ‘Blue’ starring Julia Stiles is first of Fox-backed Internet studio’s series to come to Hulu

With YouTube lifting its exclusive distribution rights on WIGS’s scripted dramas, Fox Broadcasting is widening the availability of the digital studio’s content to include Hulu in hopes of driving more viewers to the distaff fare.

Beginning Tuesday, WIGS’s most popular drama, “Blue” — starring Julia Stiles as an upscale escort — will be available on the ad-supported Hulu.com and Hulu Plus subscription service in longer-form, TV-length episodes.

In the next few weeks, Fox said, additional WIGS series will become available on Hulu, including “Lauren” with Troian Bellisario and Jennifer Beals, and “Jan” starring Caitlin Gerard, Stephen Moyer and Virgina Madsen.

YouTube served as a “staging ground” to launch a new series, said Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, Fox’s senior veep of multiplatform programming. “It’s early in the game, but we’re seeing evidence that providing our studios, like WIGS, the freedom to experiment creatively, while adding Fox’s marketing, promotional and distribution muscle, is getting results,” he said.

“Blue” recently topped 20 million views on YouTube. But Van Rensselaer said he believed the shows had more potential for additional, longer-term growth on Hulu. “I don’t think consumers look at YouTube yet as a place to watch professional, TV-style content,” he said.

Fox did not disclose the length of the distribution deal with Hulu. Two of Hulu’s owners, News Corp. (Fox’s parent) and Walt Disney Co., are in the middle of selling their stakes in the Internet TV venture.

In February, Fox entered into a multiyear programming, marketing and distribution partnership with WIGS, with the aim of generating content that could be brought to broadcast TV or other channels.

American Express and Unilever will continue their sponsorship of the WIGS YouTube channel and have agreed to advertise with WIGS on Hulu as well.

YouTube, for its part, has said it fully supports content partners distributing across multiple platforms, on the premise that their ability to better monetize assets will ultimately benefit YouTube. “We’re happy to see our creators succeeding and building their brands across entertainment platforms,” Alex Carloss, YouTube’s global head of entertainment partnerships, said in a prepared statement. “Today’s announcement underscores the continued positive momentum behind online video.”

At the same time, execs for the Google-owned video service, the No. 1 video destination online, have acknowledged that TV-style content has not been a great fit for YouTube.

“Blue,” currently in its second season, stars Stiles as a single mother trying to shield her son from her secret life as a high-end escort. Cast includes Mark Consuelos, Sarah Paulson, Holly Robinson Peete, Uriah Shelton, Kathleen Quinlan, Michelle Forbes, Carla Gallo, Jeanne Tripplehorn and James Morrison. Skein written and directed by WIGS co-creator Rodrigo Garcia (“Big Love,” “In Treatment”) with Karen Graci serving as a co-writer on second season.

The first two seasons of “Blue” are now available for viewing in a TV-length format on Hulu and Hulu Plus at www.hulu.com/blue and in their original format on www.youtube.com/wigs.

WIGS was among the first YouTube-funded channels. Studio was launched in May 2012 by director/producers Jon Avnet (“Black Swan,” “Risky Business”), Garcia and Jake Avnet. The Culver City, Calif.-based digital studio produces original series, short films and documentaries, all starring female leads.

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