TELEVISION

Hulu to launch two new Marvel shows and Nicole Kidman thriller

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Hulu on Wednesday announced a slate of new shows, including two new live-action Marvel programs and a series starring Nicole Kidman based off the thriller "Nine Perfect Strangers."

The flurry of activity comes as Walt Disney Co. has emerged as the majority owner of the Hulu streaming service, after the Burbank, Calif., media giant purchased the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox for $71 billion. Disney now owns 60 percent of Hulu, which it aims to bring into profitability in fiscal year 2023 or 2024. 

At an upfront presentation in New York on Wednesday, Hulu will provide a glimpse into what its content will look like after Disney's expanded ownership. Although Disney is launching its own streaming service later this year, Hulu is expected to be an important platform for distributing content from Marvel and other Disney brands.

Hulu has 26.8 million monthly paid subscribers across its on-demand-streaming and live-TV offerings.

"In today's direct-to-consumer world, viewers are demanding better when it comes to TV — from the user experience to their content choices to the advertising," said Hulu CEO Randy Freer in a statement. Freer said Hulu's investments in areas including product, programming and customer experience, will ensure "consumers can connect with stories they love, at the right time and price, on any device."

Hulu said it will debut two live-action series, based on Marvel properties Ghost Rider and Helstrom, in 2020. "Marvel's Ghost Rider" will follow Robbie Reyes, an anti-hero who lives on the Texas/Mexico border and is bound to a demon. "Marvel's Helstrom" is about two siblings who are children of a serial killer.

The Santa Monica, Calif., streaming service also said it will have a series based on the book "Nine Perfect Strangers," that will star actress Nicole Kidman. The thriller features a group of people who go to a health and wellness resort run by Kidman's character, but something unexpected happens. The series will be co-written by showrunners David E. Kelley and John Henry Butterworth.

Hulu said it is bringing more food-centric content to its platform in a partnership with Vox Media Studios, Momofuku chef David Chang's Majordomo Media and Chrissy Teigen's production company Suit & Thai Productions. One of the shows, tentatively titled "Family Style," will revolve around how people show their love by cooking and eating together.

Hulu also ordered a limited series starring Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes based on the ABC News podcast "The Dropout." Hulu also said it is renewing for a second season comedy series "Ramy" and "Pen15." Hulu also has a two-year deal with Teigen and Suit & Thai Productions to develop original content that could include scripted drama or talk shows.

Hulu and other companies this week will showcase new content coming to their platforms in a bid to woo more advertisers. Upfront digital video ads are expected to grow to nearly $4.4 billion this year, up about 20 percent from 2018, according to research firm eMarketer.

Hulu said it will launch a new way for advertisers to target consumers who binge watch three or more episodes of a show. The company declined to go into the details of how this will be structured, but said it could potentially include a personalized offer from a brand. Hulu said it will roll out the new ad option in beta in the fourth quarter and open it to all advertisers next year.

"This is a monumental time for Hulu's advertising business and for brands who are looking to reach the most valuable audience in television," said Peter Naylor, SVP and Head of Advertising Sales at Hulu in a statement. "Because of our viewer-first advertising principles, we're scaling rapidly."

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