Hulu has been working to bring on a lot more exclusive online programming, striking deals with content creators to license and in some cases produce, interesting new series it believes its audience will love. The latest move by the video site is to work with the BBC to co-produce the fourth season of U.K. political comedy “The Thick Of It” and make it available on Hulu.com.
The show was created and written by Armando Iannucci, who U.S. audiences might know as a writer on HBO series “Veep.” Later this month, the first three seasons of “The Thick Of It” will be available exclusively on Hulu and Hulu Plus, as well as two specials that ran in-between seasons. But that’s just to get viewers warmed up for the fourth season, which will premiere on the same day and date in the U.S. as it airs on BBC in the U.K.
It’s the first international co-production deal for Hulu, struck in partnership with BBC Worldwide Americas, which is the commercial licensing arm of the U.K. public broadcaster. Hulu’s Andy Forsell will get an executive producer credit on the fourth season of the series, along with the BBC’s Mark Freeland.
The whole co-production thing is interesting, because it points to a future where Hulu could bring interesting shows from abroad to U.S. audiences. It’s also interesting that Hulu gets the show day-and-date with the U.K. release. For years, viewers of popular U.K. shows like “Dr. Who” have complained that episodes typically aren’t available here until months after U.K. audiences have seen them. We can expect that window to close, as digital distribution makes it easier to reach audiences sooner.
Co-production deals like the one Hulu did with the BBC could also point to a future where Hulu and others help keep shows with niche audiences alive, in exchange for exclusive access to their content in the U.S. Imagine, for instance, if Hulu had been around and could have partnered with Fox to keep Arrested Development on TV, rather than having to be resurrected years later by Netflix.
Anyway, it’s just another way that Hulu is providing additional value to viewers, through exclusive content. Anecdotally, it seems that the site has been bringing a fair amount of U.K. programming online lately, which suggests that there’s an audience for it. And it also suggests that we’ll see more of it on Hulu, as the video site attempts to create more options beyond the broadcast content it gets from parents Disney, Fox, and NBC Universal.