Hulu feels good about its subscriber numbers again

2017 was a big year for Hulu.
2017 was a big year for Hulu.
Image: Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images
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Hulu is fresh off winning best TV drama at the Golden Globes with The Handmaid’s Tale. Earlier this year, it became the first streaming service to win in that category at the Emmy’s. Disney, the most powerful parent in its joint venture, wants to take a controlling stake. And its subscriber base is gaining on Netflix’s. The nearly 10-year-old streaming-video service is feeling good about its place in the media landscape—and it should.

Jointly owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast, and Turner, Hulu had more than 17 million subscribers at the end of 2017, it announced this week. That’s across its subscription-video-on-demand platform, which costs $7.99 a month ($11.99 without commercials), and the $39.99-a-month live-TV bundle that launched last year. It’s about one-third of Netflix’s US subscriber base, which was 52 million members strong as of October 2017. Hulu, unlike Netflix, is only available in the US.

The last time Hulu reported subscriber figures was May 2016, when it posted 12 million of them. It still offered a free, ad-supported plan then. After that was shuttered, Hulu moved away from posting subscriber figures in favor of another metric, “total unique viewers,” which gives a more complete picture of its audience. The streaming service still airs commercials in its base and live-TV plans, and advertisers care more about who is watching Hulu than how many people subscribe. But the press continued to cite the old number, which could be compared like-for-like with Netflix and Amazon. So now Hulu is reporting both.

Hulu had 54 million total unique viewers at the end of 2017, up 15% from 47 million in May 2017.

The streaming service made big plays for US subscribers last year. On top of buzzy and acclaimed originals like The Handmaid’s Tale and Marvel’s Runaways, it launched the live-TV bundle. For subscribers who signed up during the last few months of 2017, it also lowered the rate of its cheapest package to $5.99 a month for the first year of service. And it’s been picking up many old TV favorites that rivals have dropped, including 30 RockSeinfeld, and Futurama.

“2017 was a momentous year for Hulu,” CEO Randy Freer said in a press release. “The year ahead is going to be even bigger, as the company invests more in content – live, library and original – as well as technology and data to make Hulu the leading pay TV choice for consumers.”