When it comes to discussing the so-called streaming wars, Hulu is often overlooked. The attention, of course, is usually on the sheer volume and weight of Netflix, the deep pockets of Amazon, the IP gold mine of Disney Plus or even the strategies behind the new kids on the block, be it HBO Max, Apple TV Plus, Peacock or the upcoming Paramount Plus rebrand.
But there’s at least one space that is far from ignoring Hulu: The world of awards. While, yes, Netflix and HBO battle it out for kudos supremacy, Hulu continues to surprise by breaking records and growing its presence in key competitions — and in both film and TV fields. That was evident this week, as Hulu managed to spread the wealth both at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards nomination announcements.
Even without its critically acclaimed and well-rewarded “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the mix, Hulu was the second-most honored streamer in the TV categories for both the Globes and the SAGs. At the Globes, Hulu scored six TV nods and four film noms, for 10 all together, while it also picked up four (behind just Netflix, HBO and Pop TV) at the SAGs.
“To see the work recognized and how the strategy and the efforts be validated, it’s really fulfilling and it’s really meaningful,” says Hulu Originals chief Craig Erwich, in his first official interview since adding ABC Entertainment president stripes. “I remember when we got our first nomination for ‘Casual’ five years ago. To consistently be invited to the party and have the expanding slate be recognized is very meaningful.”
Erwich agrees that the streaming space is only getting more competitive with the new entrants. Hulu is a veteran streamer by those standards, and has broken ground by winning the first-ever best drama Emmy for a streamer (in 2017, for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which also won streaming’s first ever best drama actress Emmy, for star Elisabeth Moss). Hulu also broke ground last year when “Ramy” star Ramy Youssef broke new ground by winning the Golden Globe for comedy actor.
“It is a very competitive marketplace for talent,” Erwich said. “There’s a lot of noise but we have to just be really focused and really intentional with our decisions about the shows we’re making.
“The best advertisement we have for ourselves is the actual shows we’re doing, so that really goes a long way,” he says. “And then we’re always thrilled when our shows are recognized. But the breadth of the slate, because ultimately we’re focused on a slate as much as any one show, to have that lauded across as many shows as it was really meant a lot to us.”
This year’s Globes noms for Hulu included “The Great,” “Normal People” and “Ramy,” and on the features side included “Palm Springs” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” “Normal People’s” noms included best limited series, while “The Great” is up for best comedy/musical.
“The Great” also earned musical/comedy actor and actress noms for Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, while Youssef is back in the musical/comedy actor category as well, while “Normal People” star Daisy Edgar-Jones will compete in limited series actress.
At the SAG Awards, “The Great” is nominated for ensemble comedy, while Hoult is in the race for comedy male actor — against Youssef, who’s also nominated. And Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere,” which scored five Emmy nominations, picks up a SAG nod for Kerry Washington.
“The depth of the recognition of ‘The Great’ was really exciting,” Erwich said. “People talk about breaking out all the time and often they’re talking about kind of conceptual ways of breaking out. But I think ‘The Great’ shows that you can break out not just with a great idea but with a truly unique tone. Tonally, it’s unlike anything on television. And to see the tone of it, which is so delicate and can only be pulled off by the hands of somebody like Tony McNamara is really, really amazing.”
Hulu’s awards nomination haul comes as the kudo space appears to have become more competitive and valuable for streamers. In an age without ratings to measure success, it’s become more clear that awards will serve as that measure of success.
“I think it’s good for the consumer and the viewers,” Erwich said of the competition. “There’s so much amazing storytelling being done in multiple places for it. For us, it just ratchets up our focus and intensity on having a creative culture where people can do their best work, because that’s really the foundation of our strategy and our success… On the original side, we’re really trying to stand for value and quality by being curated. This is not a volume play of throwing a million shows up against the wall, we’re really standing behind the things that we think are worthy of people’s valuable time and money.”