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Hulu subscriptions grew 48% in 2018, thanks to handmaids and horror

This image released by Hulu shows Elisabeth Moss in a scene from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” On Thursday,
Elisabeth Moss stars in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which Hulu says is its most popular show.
(George Kraychyk / Hulu)

The number of Hulu subscribers leaped 48% to more than 25 million last year as viewers tuned in to such popular shows as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the streaming service announced Tuesday.

The subscription numbers cover paid memberships for Hulu’s on-demand streaming service and its live-TV plans in the United States.

“Consumers have spoken loudly about their desire for more choice and control in their TV experience,” Hulu Chief Executive Randy Freer said in a statement. “They are seeing the enormous benefits of streaming, they’re deciding which content and brands are most important to them, and they’re choosing Hulu.”

Although the growth is notable, the number of Hulu’s subscribers is still far from Netflix’s more than 58 million in the United States and 78.6 million internationally.

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Hulu said its most popular show remains “The Handmaid’s Tale,” an adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel about a dark society where fertile women are forced by a government to give up their jobs and focus on birthing children. The second-highest-performing show in reach and consumption was horror series “Castle Rock,” Hulu said.

In 2018, the company said, its advertising revenue rose more than 45% to nearly $1.5 billion. Last year Hulu began selling ads on shows downloaded by its subscribers, giving advertisers the option of reaching people who are abandoning traditional pay TV and subscribing to programs that typically do not show commercials.

The Santa Monica company said that over the last year it worked to improve its service, expanding the number of titles in its library to more than 85,000 episodes, including from shows such as thriller “Killing Eve” and sitcom “Superstore.” Hulu also said it reduced buffering (which can slow the connection) on its live TV service by 90% and gave consumers more options to pay additional money to add on networks such as Starz.

Hulu’s monthly subscriptions for its on-demand service start at $7.99 with ads and begin at $39.99 for its package including Hulu and live TV. Hulu said the median age of its viewers is 32, far younger than the average broadcast TV viewer.

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Santa Monica-based Hulu is a joint venture, with Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast/NBCU each owning 30% and Time Warner owning 10%. Disney will own 60% of the service once it completes its acquisition of Fox entertainment assets.

wendy.lee@latimes.com

Twitter: @thewendylee


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