Original Content Wars
Updated: Mar 4, 2019
It's the epic story of the modern age - which streaming service provides the best original content? One might argue that HBO has it covered, with their decades of amazing original series programming available both On Demand and via streaming apps... but they have a bit of an advantage seeing as they are a premium brand and charge a premium price.
When it comes to cord-cutter viewers who have said goodbye to cable, the two big Original Content contenders are Netflix and Hulu.
Netflix has been pouring billions into their original content series productions. This is not without merit, as some of their original series have become major hits, with "Orange is the New Black," "House of Cards," and "Stranger Things" to name a few. But for every success, how many useless flops are there?
Personally, I find the Netflix market specifically to be completely over diluted with mindless original content that nobody really wants to watch. When Netflix first began, I would rent DVDs of movies that were released in theaters and thought it was great because it was a more convenient alternative to Blockbuster. But as Netflix transitioned to streaming content, the climate began to change. Less and less big-name films became available due to distribution and legal issues with the production companies. Popular movies are increasingly difficult to find on Netflix these days, unless they were mega hits.
So Netflix turned to original content. It's a sensible solution, but I think they took it too far. Throwing money at something will not guarantee good results. To me, it felt like they were rushing to churn out as many different shows in different genres as they could, to fill out their categories so that users wouldn't feel short-changed when they log on and only see a small selection of content. Having a ton of content doesn't mean it's GOOD content.
Most of the best content to come out of Netflix is produced outside of America, in my opinion. "3%", "The Rain" and "Black Mirror" are all compelling and well written dramas... made in South America and Europe. For those who don't mind subtitles, there is definitely some interesting new content to consume. "Anne with an E," produced in Canada, is a revisit to the Anne of Green Gables series and is shot beautifully on Prince Edward Island. These are all fantastic shows and I highly recommend them... if you can find them hiding among all of the filler.
Hulu, on the other hand, has a different background and takes a different approach to their content. The CEO of Hulu made some comments about Netflix's budget spend and I couldn't agree more with him:
"I think money is a relative term. I think it's how you spend that is really important. We are not going to make 800 shows next year, we'll probably make 20 or 25," Freer told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Hulu has the luxury to not have to rush out content because their roots were in streaming TV shows, rather than making distribution deals with movie studios. They have always had a ton of content available, so even when syndication of one season or series ended, there would still be a constant flow of new options for viewers to add instead.
When Hulu started making original content in 2012, it didn't really make a huge splash. Over the years, more series were released, but it was with 2017's "The Handmaid's Tale" series that Hulu really started getting people's attention. Coming out with a dystopian series about women's rights during a time when the political climate was (and is) rising to a boiling point was a well-planned move on Hulu's part. People had to subscribe to get in on the conversation.
Not long after that, Hulu debuted "Future Man," a time-traveling comedic action series which might not be very well known, but it is executive produced by Seth Rogen, stars Josh Hutcherson from the "Hunger Games" films and even Hailey Joel Osment shows up in the second season. And of course I should mention that the writing is laugh out loud hilarious!
Another series that Hulu just dropped this year is the coyly titled "PEN15," which is a heartwarming coming of age story about two misfit girls going into seventh grade in the year 2000. It's full of throwback references, nostalgic soundtrack selections and ALLLL the awkward middle school feels. It's the show every 90's kid can appreciate.
When it comes down to it... I obviously have both Netflix and Hulu accounts and think they both have their merits. But for Netflix to spend $13B on filler content and Hulu spending a fraction of that on quality programming, I have to side with Hulu in terms of the Original Content Wars. Being good in business isn't always about quantity. I think ROI is important and something that Netflix seems to be... not focused on. Call me a snob, but I want the shows I watch to be good quality and something that I'm excited to see. And if I had to drop one, I would drop Netflix because Hulu was smart enough to bundle with Spotify, and so I get TV shows and music for about the same price as a Netflix subscription. More value right there with Hulu!
This is all subjective, of course. Which streaming service do YOU think provides the best original content?