Hulu entanglement with the media conglomerates of America has placed it in stark contrast to Netflix, which while subservient to the licensing demands of the industry, is considered an independent operator. For most of its existence, the majority of Hulu was owned by one or several media companies, ending with Disney acquiring a majority share in 2019. 

This perception of Hulu as a place film and TV studios dump content is a misconception, created during the era when several media companies had stakes in the company but did not want to launch any new titles on it. Hulu before that period was intensely competitive with Netflix, attempting to break new ground with innovative online partnerships. 

Sadly, for Hulu, it was always in the shadow of Netflix, as its rival added millions of customers every year in North America, Europe and South America. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video both launched original TV series in 2015, another move that pushed the video streaming services away from old media’s control. 

It would take Hulu two years to copy Netflix and Prime Video’s model, launching The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017. It became an instant hit for the streaming service, and provided Hulu with a way to rebrand as a content producer in its own right, instead of an aggregator for old television shows and movies. 

As Hulu started to gain traction through its original series, Disney began to acquire more of it from other media conglomerates. First came the acquisition of 30 percent of Hulu from 21st Century Fox, then a month later AT&T sold 10 percent of the company to Disney. A month after that, Comcast announced it would sell its 33 percent share to Disney by 2024, ceding full control. 

Disney, in comparison to Comcast and 21st Century Fox, has implemented one of the smartest digital strategies in the past decade. In its first year, Disney+ has almost reached 100 million subscribers worldwide, and ESPN+ has over 10 million subscribers. 

That said, it is not clear what Disney’s future plans are for Hulu, and if it will ultimately come under the Disney+ umbrella. The company currently offers a $12.99 bundle, which includes Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+, which points to Disney being comfortable with multiple platforms, for now.

Hulu Overview

Launch date29 October 2007
HQLos Angeles, California
PeopleJason Kilar (co-founder), Kelly Campbell (President), Bob Chapek (CEO, Disney)
Business typeSubsidiary
OwnerThe Walt Disney Company
IndustryVideo streaming

Hulu Revenue

2010$0.2 billion
2011$0.4 billion
2012$0.6 billion
2013$1.0 billion
2014$1.1 billion
2015$1.6 billion*
2016$2.0 billion*
2017$2.4 billion*
2018$3.1 billion
2019$3.5 billion

* Estimated by J. P. Morgan analyst Alexia Quadrani

Sources: CNBCeMarketerGeekWireThe VergeVariety

Hulu Ad Revenue

YearAd Revenue
2016$0.9 billion
2017$1.0 billion
2018$1.5 billion
2019$1.6 billion

Sources: eMarketerFirstpostVariety

Hulu Subscription Revenue

YearSubscription Revenue
2016$1.1 billion
2017$1.3 billion
2018$1.6 billion
2019$1.9 billion

Sources: eMarketerFirstpostVariety, Disney

Hulu Profit

2017($0.9 billion)
2018($1.8 billion)
2019($1.5 billion)

Sources: VarietyForbes

Hulu Valuation

2010$2.0 billion
2016$5.8 billion
2018$9.3 billion
2019$15.8 billion

Note: The Walt Disney Company has agreed to buy Comcast’s one-third ownership in five years, at a valuation of at least $27.5 billion. However, that is a future valuation of the app, not the current valuation, which was $15.8 billion one month before the announcement. 

Sources: CNBCDeadlineTechCrunchWSJ

Hulu Users

201642 million
201754 million
201866 million
201982 million

Note: Hulu Users includes ad-supported and ad-free tiers. 

Hulu Ad-Free Subscribers

YearAd-free Subscribers
20111 million
20122 million
20134 million
20146 million
201510 million
201612 million
201717 million
201825 million
201928 million
202036 million

Sources: CNETCNBCCollider, Disney, Hulu, The Verge 

Hulu Live TV Subscribers

YearLive TV Subscribers
H1 20192.0 million
H2 20192.7 million
H1 20203.4 million
H2 20204.1 million

Sources: EngadgetStreamingClarityVariety, (2)

Hulu other key stats

  • Hulu has moved from a service primarily dependant on ads to one focused on subscriptions 
  • In 2019, subscription revenue accounted for 54 percent of Hulu’s total revenue (Firstpost)
  • Hulu captured 40 percent of the over-the-top subscription customers in the United States in 2019 (eMarketer)
  • Hulu surpassed over 380 million streams per month in 2016 
  • The average subscriber earned Hulu $12.72 per month, far less than the $61.17 per month generated by Live TV subscribers (Statista
  • In two years, Hulu has gained over four million Live TV customers (Variety)
  • Hulu’s Live TV streaming service is the largest in the US, surpassing Google’s YouTube TV, Sling TV and FuboTV (Variety)
  • Little Fires Everywhere is the most watched drama on Hulu ever (Jason Lynch)
  • Hulu’s TV catalogue has downsized in the past few years, going from a high of 3,000 TV shows in 2016 (MarketWatch) to 1,700 in 2018 (BI)
  • Combined, Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ have 137 million direct to consumer subscribers (Variety)

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