Hulu rolls out its first long-form original production
Hulu soon can add the role of "producer" to its list of credits.
The online video service is about to join an elite group of networks that produce long-form original programming. On Aug. 17, Hulu plans to unveil a documentary series -- exclusive to Hulu -- called "A Day in the Life." The six-episode series is produced by Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker behind "Super Size Me" and "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."
In "A Day in the Life," Spurlock spends 24 hours following interesting personalities, including British business mogul Richard Branson, rapper and songwriter will.i.am and comedian Russell Peters.
"This is a project that we fell in love with, and we knew the audience would be there," said Andy Forssell, Hulu's senior vice president of content acquisition and distribution. Forssell noted that Spurlock's other productions have ranked among Hulu's most popular movie offerings.
Spurlock's 22-minute documentaries, which contain commercials, will be available on the free Hulu site as well as through Hulu's subscription service.
"We want to reach as wide an audience as possible," Forssell said.
Hulu has an undisclosed ownership interest in "A Day in the Life," which Spurlock produces through his company Warrior Poets along with his producing partner, Jeremy Chilnick. Spurlock, Chilnick and Hulu have been working on the project for six months.
Hulu's move into original productions is significant because it illustrates the company's big ambitions.
The service -- owned by News Corp., NBCUniversal and Walt Disney Co. -- has grown rapidly by providing consumers a convenient and free venue to catch up on views of popular network hits like NBC's "The Office" and Fox's "Glee."
But along the way, Hulu has antagonized its owners' traditional programming partners: cable and satellite TV providers. These companies, which pay billions of dollars a year to carry some of the same programming that Hulu offers for free, have complained bitterly -- prompting changes.
Last week, News Corp. announced that it would begin restricting access to Fox shows, including "Glee" and "The Simpsons." Beginning Aug. 15, Fox will delay by eight days the availability of Fox shows on the free Hulu site. (Subscribers to the $7.99 a month Hulu Plus service will have more immediate access.)
The media companies also are looking to sell Hulu, providing the service with another reason to set itself apart from competing online video sites.
"A Day in the Life" is not Hulu's first original production, but it is its most ambitious. The series also launches a Hulu initiative to carve out space to showcase the work of other independent producers.
Photo: Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
-- Meg James