The streaming service Hulu launched in 2007, as a joint venture of News Corp. and NBC Universal, the owners of and the Fox and NBC networks, and they were later joined by Walt Disney Corp., the owner of ABC. The original purpose of the site was to provide a free website to stream network TV shows.
Hulu has evolved in many ways since. It launched a subscription service called Hulu Plus in 2010, gradually became more app and streaming focused, with the entire service eventually becoming subscription-based and the "Hulu Plus" name being retired.
Hulu eventually began streaming original shows, making it more of a Netflix competitor, even thought it was often called a "YouTube Killer" at the time of its launch. More recently, the company launched Hulu + Live TV, an over-the-top subscription service.
The ownership of the company has also changed. Comcast became a co-owner when it acquired NBC Universal, and when Disney bought 20th Century Fox, it became the controlling owner. Last year, Disney agreed to buy Comcast out of its stake and take full operational control of Hulu.
Hulu is now one of three streaming services offered by Disney, along with Disney+ and ESPN+, and Disney sells all three in a bundle, while using Hulu to cost some content dubbed too adult-oriented for Disney+.
While Disney+ has launched in Europe, Hulu is for now not available internationally, and Disney had said earlier this year that it planned to roll out an international expansion beginning in 2021. However, due to difficulties faced by the company due to coronavirus, those plans appear to be on hold.
"In terms of our interest in Hulu internationally, given everything that's happening, you said you can make an argument either away, frankly we, long term, are still bullish about Hulu international," Bob Chapek, Disney's new CEO, said on the earnings call this week, per a transcript.
"Right now though, given the cash situation and the sort of uncertainty around our overall business, we've got no plans immediately to make any investment in that business internationally. But that again is short term only because of the COVID situation that we're sort of faced with."
In Disney's first quarter, the company posted a profit of $460 million, compared to more than $5 billion the same period the year before. This was due in large part to the company closing down its theme parks, while also shutting down movie production, due to the coronavirus.
In addition, as pointed out by Cord Cutter News, a popular Hulu show that ran earlier this spring, “Little Fires Everywhere,” had its international rights sold to Amazon.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons.