Hollywood Questions Hulu as Video Landscape Shifts

When the owners of the online video site Hulu pulled the company off the auction block for the second time last summer, they agreed to inject $750 million into the company to help it compete with big-spenders like Netflix and Amazon in the increasingly cutthroat online video business. A big priority was creating original programming, with some executives hoping for a Hulu hit to match Netflix’s “House of Cards.”

But continued executive turmoil and mixed messages about the site’s direction have left some in Hollywood wondering whether the company has enough stability to follow through on its original programming plans. Hulu was started as a way for TV networks to distribute their shows on the Internet, and recent events suggest the company’s new executive team and its owners—Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal—still haven’t worked out a clear strategy.

A few weeks ago, a would-be series from "Gone Baby Gone" author Dennis Lehane, based on his Patrick and Angie detective series, was scuttled at the eleventh hour by Hulu’s board, according to three people with knowledge of the deal. The project, which had been championed by Hulu’s then-head of development Charlotte Koh, was viewed inside the company as one that had the potential to become a flagship hit, and two sources said its abrupt cancellation was a big factor in Ms. Koh’s decision to resign last week. Ms. Koh did not respond to requests for comment.

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“Hulu needs to run more like some networks, and make the same gut calls,” said one source close to the company.


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During the presentations to the various potential acquirers, Hulu executives emphasized that close to half of the site’s traffic came from content that wasn’t produced by its parent companies.