Simon Fuller, the creator of the most watched show in the US for the past eight years American Idol, will premiere his new show on Hulu. It is then expected to air on a traditional television network several months later.
This is a departure from the traditional MO for US networks where they produce one or two pilots of a show to test the market before deciding to commit to a full series. This is an expensive business with the cost of pilots for blockbuster series’ like 24 running to seven figures. Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu, expects “we’re going to see a lot of experimentation going on where content creators use Julu to mitigate the risk of the pilot process”.
The new show from Fuller’s 19 Entertainment Group is called If I Can Dream and follows the the efforts of five people to break into the entertainment industry. Starting life on Hulu will give them more control over the pilot process, including the opportunity to experiment to improve the new format if it isn’t perfect out of the box, and it will give them functionality that isn’t available via broadcast networks including video messaging interaction and integration with social networks. These functionality differences are sufficient for Hulu to be describing If I Can Dream as “the first of a new generation of post reality entertainment”.
The one thing which Hulu doesn’t (yet?) have is the audience of CBS or Fox, although they did achieve 42m uniques in October.
For me this is a thin end of the wedge event which might herald a significant shift in the way the TV world works. Firstly people who start watching on Hulu may well stay there even if the show moves to a traditional network. Secondly, some of the people who go to Hulu for the first time because they want to see If I Can Dream will stay there to watch other shows. Thirdly, it shifts the balance of power in favour of the content originator and away from the networks, a shift that will gain momentum if the experiment works and others copy it. I blogged recently that the the world of TV is definitely changing but that it does so only slowly. This type of event has the potential to become a watershed event that brings the acceleration of change that we are all hoping for.
Thinking about the online media landscape overall, as PaidContent points out it is significant that 19 has chosen to launch this show on Hulu rather than a social network like Myspace which has been home to a lot of original reality content recently – e.g. Get Married on Myspace from Endemol.