The anthology drama will return with a “wholly original” story in its second year, the streamer’s senior vice president and head of content Craig Erwich tells Variety.
“It was a deeply original idea from two of the world’s greatest storytellers, and it was centered around something that’s been beloved and familiar to many of Stephen King’s legion of fans, which is the town of Castle Rock. So expectations were high to begin with, but it exceeded them,” he says. “The reaction from the variety of audiences has been overwhelming and it seems to be one of the most talked about shows of the summer.”
Anthology storytelling is a newer area for Hulu, but Erwich says the success of “Castle Rock” does not automatically mean they will begin developing a number of other shows in that style.
“Quite frankly it’s less about a strategy around anthologies and more about, that’s what this story demanded to be,” he says. “The beauty of Hulu is that we’re not tied to any kind of shape or form. The creative can live in its best version, and the best version of ‘Castle Rock’ was this.”
The first season of “Castle Rock” premiered on July 25, dropping the first three episodes of the new psychological horror series set within the Stephen King universe. Within its first day of launch, the streamer reports, the show became the most successful first season Hulu Original when considering consumption and reach. The streamer also reports that “Castle Rock” has among the highest completion rates for an original in its first two weeks. Erwich shares that when looking at metrics, Hulu also considers “measurable social conversation.”
“By all measures, audience, critical, and social response the show has been one of the breakout hits of the summer in television,” he says.
Erwich believes the show is “excellent” regardless of launch period — “Stephen and JJ are the masters of mystery, and the mystery and the guessing game of what’s going on has sustained week to week,” he says. But he also admits that the summer was an “opportune time” to premiere the show.
“One of the things we try and do is not just have event programming but also event marketing. We were able to use Comic Con as this massive platform, and it was really for the fans,” he explains. “That momentum really carried us into this successful season of television.”
“Castle Rock” is Hulu’s second series from the King universe. The partnership began with “11.22.63,” based on the novel of the same name, which premiered in February 2016. Now that “Castle Rock” has brought so many new King fans to Hulu, Erwich reports seeing an increase in viewership of “11.22.63,” as well. He believes this speaks not just to Hulu’s content strategy, but also their strategy around personalization.
Hulu also recently licensed the original “It” film, timed to around the launch of the series, and by Erwich’s observation, that was also a top title, performance-wise, on the service.
“We have the ability to create a whole Stephen King experience,” he notes. “I think [that] will accumulate over time.”
As hulu builds their library, Erwich expects the same level of enthusiasm King has shown thus far for their partnership to continue — but he does not expect the author’s involvement in the show to increase in a more hands-on capacity.
“Castle Rock” comes from executive producers and showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason. JJ Abrams, Mark Lafferty, Ben Stephenson, Liz Glotzer and King himself also serve as executive producers. Bad Robot Prods. in association with Warner Bros Television produces.
The first season of “Castle Rock” stars Andre Holland, Sissy Spacek, Bill Skarsgard, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Glenn, Jane Levy and Terry O’Quinn.