Today at the Hulu Upfront Presentation at Madison Square Garden Theater, Hulu announced a multitude of innovative advertising tools, original series orders and content licensing agreements, and reported significant audience growth to 47 million total unique viewers. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins, SVP of Advertising Sales Peter Naylor and SVP and Head of Content Craig Erwich took the stage to unveil the company’s newest advances in technology, content and advertising, alongside Hulu Original Series talent including J.J. Abrams, Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Sarah Silverman, Mindy Kaling, Jeff Daniels and Josh Hutcherson.
“As we expand our business to offer live TV, we’re also more than doubling our investment in original programming and exclusively licensed content to continue growing our premium streaming library,” said Hopkins. “Coupled with all of the new product and measurement solutions we’re offering advertisers, Hulu is delivering the most compelling, engaging and valuable TV experience to consumers and brands alike.”
Hulu’s 2017 Upfront announcements include:
Hulu Original Series The Handmaid’s Tale Renewed For Season Two
On the heels of its extraordinary week one premiere, Hulu is pleased to announce that it has picked up The Handmaid’s Tale for a second season, set to debut in 2018.
Based on the award-winning, best-selling novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale premiere has been watched by more Hulu viewers than any other series premiere – original or acquired – on the service, drawing acclaim from both fans and critics.
“The response we’ve seen to The Handmaid’s Tale in just one week since its premiere has been absolutely incredible. It has been an honor to work with this talented team of cast and creators to develop a series that has struck such a chord with audiences across the country,” said Erwich. “As we continue to expand our strong slate of original programming, The Handmaid’s Tale is exactly the type of gripping and thought-provoking storytelling we want to bring to viewers. We can’t wait to explore the world of Gilead and continue Margaret’s vision with another season on Hulu.”
The Handmaid’s Tale follows the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly part of the United States. The series is created, executive produced and written for television by Bruce Miller (THE 100), who serves as the series’ showrunner. The Handmaid’s Tale is executive produced by Miller, Warren Littlefield (FARGO), Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears and Ilene Chaiken. Margaret Atwood is a consulting producer for the series. The Handmaid’s Tale is produced by MGM Television and marks the first collaboration for an original series between Hulu and MGM.
Gripping Drama Series The First and Marvel’s Runaways Ordered to Series
Today, Hulu announced the addition of two new series to its slate of original programming.
The streaming service has picked up Marvel’s Runaways in its first series order with Marvel Television. The fan-favorite and groundbreaking comic book series will be brought to life on Hulu by the team behind The O.C. and Gossip Girl, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. Schwartz and Savage will serve as Co-Showrunners/writers and will executive produce the series along with Marvel’s, Jeph Loeb and Jim Chory.
Marvel’s Runaways is the story of six diverse teenagers who can barely stand each other but who must unite against a common foe – their parents. The popular classic explores the younger side of the Marvel Universe in a coming of age, new action series that will premiere on Hulu in the winter.
In addition, Hulu announced a straight-to-series order for The First (working title), a drama set in the near future about the first human mission to Mars. The series is created and written by Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award-nominated Beau Willimon (House of Cards, Ides of March), who also serves as executive producer alongside his producing partner Jordan Tappis.
The First explores the challenges of taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization. “It’s a story about the human spirit,” said Willimon. “About our indomitable need to reach for unknown horizons. About people working toward the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. And about the cost of that vision, the danger and sacrifice – emotional, psychological, and physical – that’s required to achieve it. How ordinary, imperfect people band together and overcome a myriad of obstacles to grasp the extraordinary.”
The series will go into production later this year and is slated to premiere on Hulu in 2018. Westward Productions – founded by Willimon and Tappis – will own and produce THE FIRST. The series will be co-financed by Hulu, Channel 4 and IMG.
The First and Runaways join Hulu’s growing original programming slate, which includes The Handmaid’s Tale, The Looming Tower, Future Man, The Mindy Project, I Live You, America, National Treasue, Casual, The Path, Difficult People, Shut Eye and Chance.
Award Winning FX Series Atlanta To Stream Exclusively On Hulu
Today, Hulu also announced that it will be the exclusive subscription streaming home to FX’s award-winning, breakout freshman comedy series, Atlanta.
Following its critically-acclaimed first season on FX, Atlanta took home two 2017 Golden Globe Awards for Best TV Comedy series and Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy for star Donald Glover. The complete first season of the series will become available to stream exclusively on Hulu ahead of its second season premiere, slated for 2018 on FX, and subsequent seasons will become available to stream on Hulu following their run on FX.
Atlanta follows two cousins who work through the Atlanta music scene in order to better their lives and the lives of their families. The series stars Donald Glover, who also serves as Executive Producer, along with Paul Simms and Dianne McGunigle. Atlanta is produced by FX Productions.
The series comes to Hulu through a robust, multi-year output agreement with Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution that was first announced in December 2014. The landmark agreement granted Hulu the exclusive subscription video on-demand rights to FX Networks’ Original Series produced by FX Productions. In addition to Atlanta, the deal locked in the subscription video on-demand rights to popular series including You’re The Worst, Baskets and more.
Hulu and BrightLine Introduce First-of-Its-Kind T-Commerce Ad Unit
Hulu revealed that, in partnership with BrightLine, the market leader for advanced TV advertising, it is bringing the world of E-commerce into the living room where 75% of Hulu viewing takes place, with T-commerce. Exclusive to Hulu at launch, BrightLine’s T-commerce ad unit will offer viewers the opportunity to engage directly inside a commercial with a personalized, location based overlay, where viewers can select a movie theater, time and purchase movie tickets all through their connected TV.
The announcement was made today by Hulu’s SVP of Advertising Sales, Peter Naylor, who also unveiled plans to enable capabilities for other brand categories such as retail, quick-service-restaurants (QSR), among others in 2018.
“With almost a decade of experience with advertising in the streaming space, no one is better positioned to help brands grow their business than Hulu,” said Naylor. “I’m proud to say that we’ve doubled down on our commitment to brands. From delivering a validated viewer measurement solution with Nielsen, to offering the first-of-its-kind interactive capability in the living room with BrightLine’s T-commerce ad unit, Hulu is now everything TV should be and everything advertising can and should be.”
Groundbreaking Measurement Solutions Including Hulu DAR and Sales Effectiveness Tools
Starting this fall, all Hulu advertisers will have access to a validated measurement solution across screens. In partnership with Nielsen, Hulu is extending Digital Ad Ratings (DAR) to the living room. With more than 47 million total unique viewers, as measured by comScore — 32 million of which opt for ad-supported content — Hulu’s DAR solution brings accurate, holistic measurement to its advertising partners.
Through this solution, Hulu can now get complete measurement of viewership to streaming campaigns across all connected devices – all verified by a trusted third-party source. Nielsen’s methodology will tag, collect and calibrate the data, leveraging Hulu’s robust first-party subscriber data and other third-party sources as the foundation for measurement. MAGNA, Horizon Media and GroupM are among the first agencies to adopt Hulu’s DAR solution a currency.
In addition, Hulu announced today it will begin to offer sales effectiveness measurement tools through two new partnerships with SambaTV, a leading provider of essential television insights, and Nielsen Catalina Solutions, a leading purchase-based ad targeting and return on ad spend measurement firm. First, in partnership with SambaTV, Hulu will offer a solution for advertisers to measure the results of tune-in campaigns, as well as web-based conversion rates. And, as a certified partner for Nielsen Catalina Solutions Sales Effect solution, Hulu will also offer sales effectiveness measurement for consumer packaged goods (CPG) advertisers. Both partnerships are a part of Hulu’s larger initiative to help brands measure whether their products or services were sold based on an ad exposure on Hulu.
Live TV Advertising Opportunities for Brands
Following the official launch of its new, cutting-edge user experience and new live streaming service, Hulu’s SVP of Advertising Sales, Peter Naylor, announced that the new product will offer opportunities for advertisers and marketers, including dynamic ad insertion capabilities. The personalized new live streaming service will give brands the ability to reach audiences on cable networks for the two minutes of local breaks per hour. And, in an effort to provide viewers with more timely and relevant ads, Hulu announced it will give advertisers access to the same two-minutes of inventory per hour of cable programming in the cloud DVR environment.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.