Hulu CEO 'Looking' at New Markets, Holding Off Expansion for Now

  • Hulu's CEO still searching for a defining hit like 'Sopranos'
  • Hopkins says `South Park,' 'Mad Men' changed companies

Hulu LLC, the video streamer owned by three of the largest U.S. media companies, has been looking at new markets, but isn’t planning international expansion for now, said Chief Executive Officer Mike Hopkins.

“If you look at adoption and broadband penetrations around the world, it’s compelling and something we will take a look at,” the executive said in a speech Monday at a TV industry conference in Cannes, France.

The Santa Monica, California-based company, owned by Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal, Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox Inc., said last month it will offer advertising-free viewing for $11.99 a month, giving audiences the option of paying an extra $4 to avoid commercials. The service already offers a free, ad-supported version and a $7.99-a-month option, also with ads, that includes a wider selection of shows.

Hopkins’s comments signal Hulu’s U.S. rival Netflix Inc. needn’t worry about a challenge in markets such as Europe any time soon. Netflix added 2.37 million subscribers in international markets in the second quarter, more than double the number of domestic additions.

Hulu is still on the hunt for that original series hit that would define its service in the same way that “The Sopranos” lifted Time Warner Inc.’s HBO more than a decade ago, Hopkins said.

“We’re looking for that defining show,” he said, also citing AMC’s “Mad Men” and Comedy Central’s “South Park” as examples. “They changed those companies.”

The TV industry has been trying to protect and increase its advertising revenue ever since the digital video recorder allowed people to skip commercials. Hulu, launched in 2007, was conceived as a way to offer advertising-backed catch-up viewing and archival TV to the growing ranks of Internet users.

Hopkins sees multi-channel bundling in the U.S. thriving “for years to come,” and said that most customers add Internet-delivered over-the-top content from providers such as Hulu or Netflix without turning off their cable subscriptions. So-called shaving or downsizing of TV packages is “more of an issue,” he said, citing Showtime and HBO offering their own streaming services so consumers don’t have to pay for them through a TV provider.

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