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Hulu CEO: Company Plans to Go International, But is a Hard Challenge to Solve

Jason Gurwin

For those outside the U.S., many have wondered when Disney plans to bring their streaming services to International markets. While Disney has provided a global roadmap for expansion of their Disney+ service, and shared plans to bring ESPN+ to Latin America, Hulu’s plans haven’t been as clear.

On the Recode Media Podcast with Peter Kafka, Hulu CEO Randy Freer shared that “International is interesting, it is a hard challenge to solve for a variety a reasons. It is an expensive proposition depending on the way you’re going to do it.” With Hulu expected to lose $1 billion this year, it’s not a surprise that they haven’t tried to attack international growth at the same time.

Freer said that in order to go international, it’s important to “have something that differentiates Hulu from everything else out there.” He continued, “In most markets today, there are two if not three, or four SVOD services between Netflix and Amazon, and local services in Latin America like Blim or what Claro has, and Rakuten in other parts of the world, or individual services by a market by market basis. By just chasing to be the third or second SVOD player in those markets, is not necessarily our best option.”

Despite the challenges, Freer indicated it is a “safe assumption” that Hulu will be an international streaming service going forward. And he doesn’t feel that content is going to be a problem. “A lot of that content comes from studios, some of which are our owners. In the process, it’s more of the timing of when that becomes available, how much you can get, and it also becomes how important U.S. is content going forward.” However, their hit show, The Handmaid’s Tale is licensed to HBO in Asia, Paramount Channel in Latin America, Bravo/Crave in Canada, and Channel 4 in the UK.

With companies like Netflix and Amazon creating originals targeted at international markets, it sounds like Hulu might take a similar approach. “Historically, it (U.S. content) has had a higher level of importance to services, than it does today. It is still super important, a majority of what is watched in a lot of place. But, the local content has a lot higher value than it did a decade ago.”

Now, that Disney has assumed full control of Hulu, there are fewer decision makers that would need weigh in on their international plans. With Disney+ expected to be available globally by 2022, Hulu could leverage Disney’s overall global launch strategy. While Hulu is growing faster than Netflix in the U.S., its ~27 million paid subscribers is still a fraction of the nearly 150 million subscribers Netflix has worldwide. And in order to close the gap there’s only one way to catch up, and that’s to go global.

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