Streaming television is all the rage nowadays as cord-cutters look to leave their costly cable packages and invest in cheaper and more convenient digital options. While the cord-cutting trend has been resulted in a great deal of success and expansion in the streaming sphere, not all outlets are turning out tons of profit each year. Hulu lost $920 million in 2017.
Even in the multibillion-dollar business of streaming video, $920 million is a lot of money in 2017, and it's a big bump up from the $531 million lost back in 2016. The $920 million comes off of an investment of $1 billion from Hulu's four owners: Comcast, 21st Century Fox, Disney, and Time Warner. The total loss was not split evenly between the four partner companies. Variety reports that Comcast, Disney, and Fox each own 30% of Hulu, with Time Warner holding the remaining 10%. According to Comcast's 10-K disclosures, the company invested $300 million of the $1 billion and recorded a loss of $276 million.
Unfortunately, losses are expected be even higher in 2018. All of this said, however, Hulu isn't losing money simply due to a low number of subscribers. Like Netflix, Hulu is spending a lot of money in the production of new content to kickstart growth that will hopefully lead to profit in the coming years. Hulu already revealed that the content budget for 2017 was approximately $2.5 billion. A company needs to spend money to make money; perhaps continued investments in content expansion will result in the owners turning a profit.
It should be noted that Hulu is at something of a disadvantage compared to rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime. Although Hulu's library of shows at least rivals both of these services and seems to be growing more and more, Netflix and Amazon are both available internationally. Hulu is currently only available in the United States.
Interestingly, at least one of the four Hulu owners probably isn't surprised at Hulu's lack of profit and poor prospects for profit in 2018. Back in November, Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed that Disney expected around $100 million in losses just due to the launch of Hulu Live. The live TV option launched last year and currently runs for $39.99 per month and offers a wide variety of channels, including local stations and cable outlets.
Hulu Live is a solid option for cord-cutters who want to give up their cable packages but don't want to give up all their live channels. Still, it's too new and relatively untested to have gained much of a foothold in the market. If Hulu Live grows more popular, Hulu could start making a lot more money. At the end of 2017, Hulu reported more than 17 million subscribers in on-demand and live TV packages.
The undeniable good news for Hulu is that its originals have been gaining more and more attention over the last year. The Handmaid's Tale was a hit with critics and viewers alike, and Season 2 later this year is highly-anticipated by many. The upcoming Stephen King-based series is almost certainly going to be a hit, and George Clooney is bringing his new show to Hulu. It should be intriguing to see what happens for Hulu in the coming months.