Hulu CEO Hopkins: No international expansion for now

Don't look for Hulu to expand into countries outside the U.S. anytime soon: Its CEO, Mike Hopkins, told attendees at a Cannes, France event that while the global broadband market makes a compelling case for doing so, the SVOD provider is only going to look at potential expansion scenarios for now.

Hopkins further said that Hulu is looking for a "defining" original series that will have a transforming effect on the company, according to a Bloomberg article. That strategy sounds similar to the one Netflix undertook in developing a U.S. version of House of Cards, which became a cornerstone original series for the top online video provider.

That Hulu is remaining cautious about expanding beyond U.S. borders isn't surprising. The company took a bath in 2011 when it ambitiously entered the Japanese market. However, Hulu Japan foundered and was sold off to Nippon TV in 2014.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings detailed a number of reasons why Hulu Japan didn't do so well, citing them as important markers for Netflix as it prepped for its entry this fall. The subscription price was too high and its visibility was far too low; Hulu didn't negotiate for a more visible position with the TV and cable companies it partnered with. There was no local content available to Japanese viewers, making it less attractive to potential subscribers. "We've got more experience than they had at that time," Hastings said, noting that his company has applied those lessons learned and is being realistic about how tough it is to become a recognized go-to brand in Japan.

Since then, Hulu has focused entirely on its core U.S. business, implementing strategies to keep bringing in OTT viewers. The provider most recently introduced an $11.99 monthly subscription that axes ads from Hulu videos; subscribers at the original tier and free tier still see ads. It also partnered with Showtime to bring the over-the-top Showtime Anytime service to its subscribers at a discount.

Hopkins' disclosure about Hulu's international plans doesn't mean Netflix should be breathing a sigh of relief, however. Amazon recently announced it would begin selling its Fire TV and Fire Stick streaming devices in Japan in a move that directly challenges Netflix just as it's trying to gain traction in the Japanese market. And Netflix must balance the need to drive growth in its international markets with its pending launches in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article

Related articles:
Netflix will succeed in Japan, but China is a whole other ballgame
Netflix, Hulu subscriber churn should be a concern for OTT providers, research firm says
Amazon, Netflix land more exclusive streaming deals

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