Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube join BMW, Kmart, and Blendtec: the Studios of Tomorrow

Hulu is funding three original shows that will be available to both their paid and free subscribers this year.  “Battleground” will be a half-hour dramedy about a political campaign in the battleground state of Wisconsin.  The 13 episodes will air on Tuesdays beginning Feb 14.  “Up to Speed” is a documentary series from Richard Linklater; it will begin airing this summer.  Morgan Spurlock’s “A Day in the Life” (Hulu’s first original series) will have a 10-episode second season this year.

Netflix original series “Lilyhammer” will begin airing on Feburary 6, and YouTube’s original content channels are already rolling out.  While Hulu won’t say how much it is spending on any of the new series, they say it is comparable to television pricing.

Among these three giants, Netflix appears to be positioning itself with the highest quality content (or at least the most expensive) — their “House of Cards” series is rumored to cost in the tens of millions of dollars for 26 episodes.  (Granted, it does star Kevin Spacey.)  YouTube is spending less, having bought over a dozen series for $100M.  Hulu is probably somewhere in the middle.

YouTube makes all its money from advertising — their original model was user generated content. Netflix makes all its money from subscriptions — their original model was movies.  Television and movies have always had this bizarre schizm; viewers will pay $5/hour to watch a movie, but nothing to watch dozens of hours of television.  Hulu’s model is both — they have higher ad revenues than other online video players (because their content is higher quality), but also have a subscription.

Big players are betting their hard-earned cash (and lots and lots of it) on ownership of great content.  Some brands have gotten the memo too (BMW, Kmart, Blendtec, Degree, and others) and are commissioning their own web series.  Thought leaders in this space are predicting that soon every brand will have its own production studio, and we agree.  Not only does great original content bring awareness to your brand, not only is it actively shared by viewers — it is a lifelong asset.  According to my sources at YouTube, popular videos remain popular, and a great web series can actually generate revenue.

Brands, don’t fall behind — where’s your series?


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