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NewFronts: Hulu Plus Tops 4 Million Subscribers

Internet TV venture talks up momentum, pushes lineup of 10 upcoming original and exclusive shows

Hulu crested 4 million monthly premium subscribers in the first quarter — and for the first time streamed more than 1 billion videos in the period — with Internet TV venture queuing up 10 original and exclusive shows to try to keep the ball rolling.

Company made the announcements at Digital Content NewFronts event in New York, where it trotted out talent from upcoming skeins to try to impress ad buyers.

“For us, it’s a quality bar,” Hulu interim CEO Andy Forrsell said. “We’re sitting next to the best of what was on TV last night. That’s the bar for our original programming.”

Other stats Hulu touted: It generated $695 million in revenue last year, up 65% over 2011. Subscribers to Hulu Plus, $7.99 per month for access to 2,500-plus TV series and other programming, doubled in 2012.

Celebs and talent at the Hulu NewFronts included: Seth Meyers (“SNL”) and Michael Shoemaker (“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”), co-creators of “The Awesomes” animated original; James Corden and Mathew Baynton from “The Wrong Mans” original scripted action-comedy coproduced with BBC; Eva Longoria from “Mother Up!” exclusive animated laffer; and WWE grapplers Rey Mysterio and Sergeant Slaughter, who touted Hulu as exclusive destination for WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” and other shows.

About “The Wrong Mans,” costar Corden said it’s “a conspiracy thiller-coaster,” and compared skein to cross between “24” and “Dumb & Dumber.”

Soap stars on hand included Erika Slezak and Kelley Missal from “One Life To Live” and Denyse Tontz and Robert Wilson from “All My Children.” Sudsers, reborn in new productions by Prospect Park after ABC canceled them in 2011, debuted on Hulu on Monday.

“We are not just daytime TV. We are anytime TV,” Slezak said.

Other new originals are: “Quick Draw,” Western crime-investigation comedy from writer/director Nancy Hower and writer/star John Lehr; and “Behind the Mask,” docu-series about sports mascots. Exclusives coming to Hulu include Keshet International’s “Prisoners of War” — which formed basis for Showtime’s “Homeland” — about two Israeli soldiers who return to their families after 17 years in an enemy prison; “Moone Boy,” family comedy skein written by and starring Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids,” “Girls”); and “East Los High,” scripted drama about East L.A. teenagers.

Hulu also highlighted “Spotlight Series,” which it hopes to sell to brand advertisers that want integrated marketing within the shows. These include “The High Road” interview show hosted by chef Mario Batali, who kibitzes with Gotham notables like Jimmy Fallon and Julianna Margulies about the town; and Carson Daly-hosted live music series “Sundays at the Greek” from L.A.’s Griffith Park. Another in this group includes Believe Entertainment Group’s “Money Where Your Mouth Is,” gameshow series hosted by Jay Mohr.

Actually, Hulu called its event an “upfront,” adopting nomenclature of TV biz to suggest that its content rivals shows on the tube.

Questions loom about Hulu’s future. Two of the venture’s owners, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co., are looking at potentially spinning off or selling Hulu, and they have enlisted Guggenheim Partners to pursue options. Hulu’s third stakeholder, NBCUniversal, is barred from management decisions under terms of government approval of Comcast’s deal for NBCU.

With sale, Hulu could lose exclusive content rights for ABC, NBC and Fox shows, which have served as its core since inception. At the same time, company is losing some premiere TV content, such as “Saturday Night Live” clip archive, which will head to Yahoo in the fall.

Hulu also is seeking a new full-time CEO: Forrsell, former senior veep of content, stepped into the role after topper Jason Kilar left in March.

For now, Forrsell and his team are trying to maintain business as usual — meaning pocketing more ad coin, adding more content and attracting more viewers. Hulu’s pitch to ad buyers emphasizes engagement metrics: Site’s viewers stay connected for 45 minutes per session without fast-forwarding or skipping ads, leading premium online video category. Hulu holds No. 1 market share among professionally produced online video providers, delivering one-third of all premium video ads in the US.

According to Hulu, mobile is fast-growing category and will account for approximately 15% of consumed videos in 2013-’14, up from zero two years ago. Living room viewing is now 29% of content consumption, and 80% of Hulu Plus subscribers have watched programming on the service with someone else.

Hulu’s 2013 NewFronts event is being held at Gotham Hall, at Broadway and 36th Street.

Emcee Meyers, host of Weekend Update seg on “SNL,” cracked wise at the top of the event to warm up the crowd.

“You might be wondering why someone who works for a traditional network like NBC is at the Hulu upfront,” he said. “Simply put, I’m hedging my bets. I don’t want to be working for the steam-engine company and wondering if cars are going to work.”

Putting in a plug for his host for the day, he quipped, “Hulu has completely revolutionized how we ignore our families.”

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