Today in Brand History: Hulu
On March 12, 2008, the streaming service Hulu launched for public access in the United States. While Hulu quickly gained popularity and became a household name, it was not the first streaming service available to consumers. Let's look back before we move forward.
In the late 1990s, a company called Broadcast.com, founded by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, began streaming live events, such as sports games and concerts. The company was eventually acquired by Yahoo! and its technology became the foundation for Yahoo! Broadcast.
Another early streaming service was RealPlayer, which launched in 1995. RealPlayer allowed users to play streaming media on their computers, including audio and video. Netflix also played a role in the early days of streaming, launching its streaming service in 2007. However, at the time, Netflix's streaming service was a side offering to its primary DVD rental business.
Taking those early efforts to new heights, Hulu took an innovative approach it is model. Unlike previous streaming services, Hulu offered users a combination of free, ad-supported content and a subscription service for more premium content. Additionally, Hulu was the first streaming service to have partnerships with major television networks, such as ABC, NBC, and Fox, allowing users to watch popular TV shows soon after they aired on cable TV.
Hulu was founded by three media companies: NBCUniversal, Fox Broadcasting Company, and Disney-ABC Television Group. The idea for the service came about in 2006, when NBCUniversal executive Jeff Zucker and News Corp executive Peter Chernin discussed the potential for a joint venture in the growing streaming market. They eventually brought Disney-ABC Television Group on board and launched Hulu in 2008.
Since its launch, Hulu has continued to evolve and innovate, offering a mix of original content, current TV shows, and classic movies. The company has also expanded its reach beyond the United States, launching in Japan in 2011 and expanding to Canada in 2021.
In 2019, Disney, which had acquired Fox and had already been a part owner of Hulu, became the majority owner of the streaming service. This led to a shift in Hulu's content strategy, with more of a focus on original content that would complement Disney's other streaming service, Disney+. Today, Hulu remains a major player in the streaming market, with a loyal user base and a growing library of content but with a much broader competitive landscape that it has back in 2008.