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Hulu Sticks With Weekly Release Schedule For Original Series

Hulu has vowed to stick with a weekly release schedule for episodes of its growing slate of original comedy and drama series.

“We value the shared experience and the joy of the water cooler that is television,” said Craig Erwich, Hulu’s senior VP and head of content, on Sunday in opening the netcaster’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour.

Netflix blazed a trail in the way TV series are released in 2013 when it launched drama “House of Cards” by making all 13 episodes available at once. Since then, virtually all of Netflix’s original series have been released in season-long batches, as has Amazon.

But in recent months there’s been debate in the industry about whether the all-at-once release costs a show the opportunity to have buzz and social media chatter build on a week-by-week basis, especially for shows where the storyline builds to a big finale.

A weekly episode premiere pattern will make it easier for viewers to “discover” Hulu series, Erwich said. It will also allow the service to keep a steady stream of shows premiering as they won’t have to wait until all episodes are completed, he said.

Erwich gave a quick recap of a string of deals and series orders that Hulu has struck during the past few months as it revs up operations to become a more formidable competitor to Netflix and Amazon. He also noted that nowadays some 60% of viewing on Hulu is done through connected TVs rather than on computers. “TV consumption on Hulu is growing at an amazing rate,” he said.

Among the acquisition highlights are the catalogue of “Seinfeld,” and off-network rights to Fox’s “Empire.” It also has output deals with TNT, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, FX Prods. and AMC Networks. Those deals will ensure a steady stream of shows that get a big platform on their commissioning network, a list that includes the “Fear of the Walking Dead” spinoff and all the out-there animation in the Adult Swim universe.

Hulu also struck a big bucks deal to extend its SVOD hold on once and future segs of “South Park.” “Adult animation is huge for us,” Erwich said.

Among other comedies, “The Mindy Project” relocates from Fox to Hulu for season four on Sept. 15, while another original comedy, “Casual,” opens Oct. 7.

High-profile original dramas in the works include “The Way,” a drama about a cult from Jason Katims, which begins production in the fall; and “11/22/63,” a J.J. Abrams adaptation of the Stephen King book about a teacher who goes back in time in an effort to stop the Kennedy assassination. James Franco is starring in “11/22/63.”

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