Beatrice Springborn hopes to change the conversation about Hulu

Beatrice Springborn hopes to change the conversation about Hulu
Beatrice Springborn, the head of original programming at Hulu, is flanked by "The Simpsons" characters at Hulu headquarters in Santa Monica. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The gig: Beatrice Springborn is the head of original programming at Hulu, one of the top video-streaming services. She joined Hulu last summer and oversees development and production of original series.

She arrived as the company looked to strengthen its position in the streaming landscape. Working at Hulu headquarters in Santa Monica, she is responsible for its upcoming original series, which include "Casual," a comedy from filmmaker Jason Reitman, and "11/22/63," a thriller from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King that will star James Franco.

Education: Springborn received a degree in communications from Mills College in Oakland, where she was pre-law. She also has a master of fine arts in film from UCLA.

Eastside girl: Springborn was born in Ohio and grew up "all over the place," including Minnesota, Maine, Kansas and Sacramento. Her mother was a college professor and her father a nurse.


She lives in Silver Lake. "I'm an Eastsider through and through," she said.

She's a frequent patron of Pine & Crane, a Thai restaurant on Griffith Park Boulevard, and might be seen in the wee hours reading scripts at Tom N Toms Coffee in Koreatown.

"I've been at Tom N Toms until 2 in the morning to get caught up on work reading, which has been kind of nice and kind of sad."

Out of this world ambitions: One might say Springborn was destined to be in the business of picking and choosing good stories to tell visually. As a child, it was all about the written word for Springborn.

"I was really into writing short stories. I liked writing about aliens. I wrote one, that might have subconsciously been inspired by a character on Superman, that was called, like, 'Zod and the Planet of Bugs.' My mom still has it."

Serving the customer: Springborn once held development positions at Pixar Animation Studios and worked on such films as "Ratatouille" and "Finding Nemo." When she interviewed for the job, Springborn said the first question asked was, "Did you ever work in the service industry?"

Springborn said she couldn't fathom how her time as a waitress, a bakery worker or a Haagen Dazs ice cream server might help her at Pixar.

"The person who interviewed me was like, 'I always find that people who are the best workers have had experience serving people and having a customer service base,' " Springborn said. "I never understood. I thought it was silly. But looking back, it's totally true. When you're working to entertain an audience, your job is to serve their needs and their wants, and you have to work well with your team to make that happen. Because without satisfied customers, you have no job."

Hulu perks: Springborn said she gets a free subscription to Hulu. But she never canceled the subscription she had before joining Hulu.

"The free one, my family uses. The one I pay for, I use. Everyone asks me why I don't cancel it. I feel like I'd somehow not be supporting what I believe in."

There is one Hulu perk she could live without: "There are so many snacks here. I've gained the Hulu 15. Yes, there is such a thing as the Hulu 15. It exists. I realized it did when I got on the scale after six months of working here. I told myself I have to do the standing desk thing — doesn't that burn calories?"

The future of TV: As television continues to be an elastic term — and its evolution shows no signs of slowing — Springborn said it's hard to think about a five-year plan.

"I think I'm more focused on the next two years and just trying to stay a couple of steps ahead while still knowing the TV world is going to be a different place once you get the hang of it."

Her focus now is on changing the conversation about Hulu, whose voice in the streaming landscape sometimes gets muffled by the chatter surrounding Netflix and Amazon.

"I'm really excited for people to talk about the next iteration of Hulu," she said.

Springborn said the "11/22/63" announcement really seemed to demonstrate to others that Hulu wanted to make its mark on original programming.

"We had more emails after the announcement than any other," she said. "The James Franco announcement was also huge for us. That and 'Casual' I think really showed that we're taking this seriously and are getting better and better every day."