While Hulu continues to steadily increase its subscriber count, that isn't yet translating financially, as the service lost over $900 million in 2017. When it comes to stateside streaming services, Hulu sits at a pretty solid #3, behind Netflix and Amazon Prime. Considering how established Netflix is, Hulu is obviously closer to overtaking Amazon than it is with seriously competing with Netflix any time soon. That said, Hulu made a breakthrough overall last year, when its original drama The Handmaid's Tale became the first streaming series to win the Emmy for Best Drama.
Unlike Netflix and Amazon, Hulu is a joint venture, with media giants Comcast, 21st Century FOX, Disney, and Time Warner sharing ownership stake. Comcast, FOX, and Disney each own a 30 percent chunk of Hulu, while Time Warner owns the remaining 10 percent. Of course, Disney is set to become the clear majority owner of Hulu once its buyout of FOX becomes official, and the House of Mouse acquires FOX's 30 percent.
Unfortunately, Hulu may be gaining popularity, but that isn't doing much for the company's bottom line. According to Variety, Hulu's four owners invested a whopping $1 billion into it last year, only to lose $920 million of that investment. The majority of that cash was spent on producing original content, but a large portion was also invested into launching Hulu's Live TV service, which users can subscribe to for $40 per month.
As if $920 million wasn't enough to lose, Variety's analyst also predicts that things won't be any better for Hulu in 2018. He projects that Hulu's losses will climb to a staggering $1.7 billion, after an additional $1.5 billion investment from the four parent companies. That's an 80 percent increase in losses year to year, and a number likely to cause concern for investors in Disney, FOX, Time Warner, and Comcast.
With yesterday's announcement that Disney plans to stick all its non-family friendly content onto Hulu once the Disney-branded streaming service launches, one wonders what effect that will have on Hulu's fortunes. One also wonders if Disney will try to exert more direct control of how Hulu is run once they gain FOX's 30 percent stake, and perhaps decide to drastically cut down on original content spending. While that might save some money, it would likely also lead to lower subscriber numbers. After all, as Bill Gates once wrote, content is king.