Hulu's Most-Watched TV Show In 2017 Is Not At All What We Expected

For its NewFronts presentation this year, Hulu was an open tap of big announcements and celebratory reveals, with the biggest of the bunch being its hallmark of reaching 20 million customers, having gained a whopping three million subscribers in the first third of 2018. With the mega-success of Hulu original The Handmaid's Tale, Elizabeth Moss' hardships-filled drama would have been a good guess for the most-watched show on the platform last year. However, it would have been incorrect, as the streaming service's actual most popular series for 2017 was the little animated series that could: South Park.

For all the TV (and movies, and other forms of programming) that Hulu has to offer, one might have expected a tried and true broadcast network drama would be atop Hulu's most-watched shows in 2017, such as This Is Us or Grey's Anatomy. But no, the top honors belong to the group of Coloradan boys, girls and quasi-adults that fill the South Park universe. CEO Randy Freer revealed that out of the 75,000 television episodes that make up the company's small screen library, the 284 South Park episodes that Hulu boasts were watched quite a bit. The combined 2017 screentime for Trey Parker and Matt Stone's consistently relevant and hilarious creation totaled over 135 million hours.

135 million hours! That's the kind of total that sounds graspable and understandable, but it's a hell of a lot of hours, buddy. (Don't call me buddy, guy.) To put it into context, a year only has 8,760 hours in it. And if episodes are averaged out to be 22 minutes, that means individual installments were streamed over 6.13 million times in 2017 alone. Just to break it down further, you'd have to watch each episode 21,584 times to match that total. And I just don't think you have that kind of time on your hands.

Interesting for readers, and spectacular for Hulu itself, is that those South Park episodes weren't solely being streamed at random by fans looking to add some Butters to their afternoons. While speaking at the NewFronts presentation (via THR), Randy Freer noted that Hulu's incorporation of live TV streaming has had a "huge impact" on overall viewing, and considering how often Comedy Central likes to air reruns, those sometimes daily airings could have easily played a big role in that giant total.

2018 is shaping up to be a banner year for Hulu. It's currently riding the Season 2 success of The Handmaid's Tale, having just renewed it for Season 3, and the company has a stellar slate of in-development projects, such as George Clooney's Catch-22 remake with Hugh Laurie and Kyle Chandler, as well as the impending Stephen King-verse thriller Castle Rock. Hulu announced a few new projects, too, such as Mindy Kaling's Four Weddings and a Funeral -- Memba Four Weddings? Memba Hugh Grant? -- as well as a new comedy from Rami Youssef and a new Blumhouse Productions horror anthology called Into the Dark. But for all that newness, don't expect to see customers turning a blind eye on one of the most successful animated series of all time. South Park will outlive us all.

You don't need to worry about any specific air dates for South Park on Hulu, because the show is always available to stream whenever customers are ready for it. To see what new and returning shows will be hitting Hulu, linear TV and beyond, head to our summer premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.