Why Hulu Will Be OK Without NBCU Content

Why Hulu Will Be OK Without NBCU Content
Yinchen Niu/Variety Intelligence Platform

The Hulu catalog will be thinner on NBCUniversal content by the end of the year. 

That’s what was reported last week, as NBCU confirmed it ended its agreement with Hulu that allowed the Disney-owned streamer to play episodes of programs like “Law & Order: Organized Crime” and “SNL” soon after they aired on linear TV. 

The move had been anticipated since the WSJ in November reported the NBCU-Hulu deal termination was a possibility. Starting in September, the deal termination will affect certain NBCU library content on Hulu in addition to next-day content. 

The list of programs moving from Hulu to Peacock is not yet finalized, though some NBCU shows, including “This Is Us” and “Law and Order: SVU,” will remain on Hulu because they’re not part of this current deal not being renewed, per Deadline.  

But even if every NBCU show was departing Hulu in the fall, Disney’s streamer would likely be able to get by without significantly frustrating a big portion of its viewers.  

That’s because Hulu isn’t overly reliant on NBCU content for viewership. Research firm Ampere Analysis estimated that as of January 2022, NBCU was the parent distributor of 7% of the distinct titles available in Hulu’s catalog.   

The distributors, rather than the production companies, of Hulu’s titles should be focused on for this analysis. That’s because there are instances where the producer of a title doesn’t end up distributing it or owning all of the rights to it (such as Hulu original “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which was produced by MGM). 

The share of distinct titles attributed to “Independent/Other” increased notably since October 2021, in part due to Hulu adding content from Hotstar (which is set to shut down in the U.S. in late 2022), according to Ampere. However, Ampere estimates the share of distinct titles in Hulu’s catalog attributable to NBCU did not change significantly between October 2021 and January of this year.  

Keep in mind that NBCU’s 7% share of content wasn’t necessarily punching above its weight on Hulu, either. 

For example, Ampere also estimated that as of January 2022, NBCU didn't account for a significant portion of Hulu’s most well reviewed content.  

Ampere analyzed various content rating databases (including IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic) and estimated which 500 titles (either TV series or movies) on Hulu in January 2022 were the most positively reviewed by users and critics.   

To estimate which 500 titles were the most positively reviewed, Ampere assigned each analyzed title a proprietary metric that factored in the number of and scores from reviews that a title had received across various ratings databases. Reviews coming from more established data sources received more weight.   

With this method, 7% of the 500 titles Ampere determined to be the most positively reviewed on Hulu in January counted NBCU as the parent distributor, lower than the percentages of Paramount (10%) and Disney (23%). 

The NBCU content exit from Hulu spotlights how aggressively Comcast hopes to grow its nearly two-year-old video streamer Peacock. 

The service was reported by Comcast to have 9 million paid subscribers and 24.5 million sign-ups during the telecom’s Q4 2021 earnings, which is one indication that Peacock had a relatively strong October-December quarter (Comcast didn’t give updated Peacock sign-up or subscriber metrics in its Q3 earnings). 

While next-day NBCU content will help Peacock’s appeal, it’s not necessarily a game-changer for the service, which has had an originals push lagging behind that of other streamers that launched around the same time it did.  

Something that might boost Peacock more quickly in the months ahead are day-and-date releases, though Universal chair Donna Langley has signaled previously that an aggressive day-and-date strategy is not in the cards for Peacock.