Can J.J. Abrams and Stephen King put Hulu in the big leagues?

Writer and director J.J. Abrams, through his production company Bad Robot, is teaming up with Stephen King for a new Hulu series.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Hulu, at long last, is ready to play with the big boys.

The streaming service announced on Monday that it has given a direct-to-series order to a series from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King. The nine-part series, “11/22/63,” is about an English teacher who travels back in time in an attempt to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. (The series is based on King’s novel of the same name and is produced by Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot.)

The project could mark a significant turn for the 7-year-old company. While the streaming site has dipped its toe in original programming, with projects such as Seth Meyers’ “The Awesomes” and comedy “Deadbeat,” it has yet to produce a breakout hit, nor has it boasted such heavy-hitting names. Its more steady approach is in stark contrast to its competitors, Netflix and Amazon Prime, which have taken a more aggressive approach in getting into original programming.

Hulu, owned by media giants News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and cable giant Comcast, has mostly made a name for itself for having a large selection of recent episodes of recent shows available for streaming. But the buzz that “11/22/63” is likely to generate could help raise the streamer to the zeitgeist-level of Netflix and Amazon.


Netflix so far reigns supreme among the three, with critical hits such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.” And Amazon Prime later this week will launch the highly-praised Jeffrey Tambor-starring dramedy “Transparent.”

King and Abrams, on their own, have become big players in the television market. King’s last novel, “Under the Dome,” was a hit for CBS last year (though a bit of its power waned this summer). And Abrams, hard at work on the “Star Wars” reboot, has kept busy on the small screen with his production company Bad Robot. Though not everything with his name on it has stuck. Last season’s projects, NBC’s midseason filler “Believe,” and Fox’s sci-fi crime drama “Almost Human,” were cut. Still, names are everything, and King and Abrams lend some heft to Hulu.

It’s a shift in original programming that Hulu is serious about. Last April, Hulu hired Craig Erwich, previously of Warner Horizon Tevlevision, as head of content. Intent on getting folks to think of Hulu as a destination for noteworthy original programming, Erwich brought on Storyline Entertainment’s Beatrice Springborn earlier this summer to shepherd its original programming.

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