Looking Back on 2020: Hulu’s Year End Report

2020 has been a year unlike any other. We’ve faced a tremendous amount of change and uncertainty while adjusting to our “new normal” each passing day. Spending more time at home, adapting to a virtual-first world and completing far too many DIY projects have become second nature at this point.

Through it all, our viewers’ love of streaming content has remained strong. For many, this content provided a sense of comfort and entertainment. For others, it’s been a primary way to stay connected with friends and family. Whichever category you fall into, it’s safe to say that streaming TV has become a source of stability in our ever-changing world. 

This year, Hulu viewers escaped reality with…well…reality! Among all Hulu viewers (live and on demand), unscripted content was the #1 genre in terms of content hours watched and percentage of overall consumption. In fact, minutes watched in unscripted series increased +48% YoY, driven by top unscripted titles like Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Viewers also reminisced with the oldies but goodies as the Classic TV sub-genre saw a +77% YoY increases in minutes watched as viewers got lost in countless episodes of I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H and The Twilight Zone.

Before letting the credits roll on 2020, we wanted to take a look back at some trends we’ve seen this past year: Which series had viewers clamoring for another season? Which episodes left audiences on the edge of their seats? Which live events broke viewership records? Answers to these questions are just a scroll away!

Most Watched Episode

Little Fires Everywhere season premiere, “The Spark,” was our most popular episode in 2020. When you combine Reese, Kerry and some fiery 90’s references, what’s not to love?!

Most Watched Movie

It’s easy to glue ourselves to our laptops, living room televisions and mobile devices these days — but it’s even easier to do so when the content we’re watching is relatable. The most watched movie on Hulu in 2020 was our Hulu Original film, Palm Springs. The infinite time loop Sarah and Nyles live in surely hits close to home! Another film that rose to the top of the charts this year was Parasite. This Oscar-winning, blockbuster hit was the most watched film on Hulu from March to May.

Most Watched LIVE Programs

In case you haven’t heard, Hulu Has Live Sports. Even with delayed and abbreviated seasons, 5 of our top 10 Live programs in 2020 were dedicated to sports: NFL Football, College Football, NBA Basketball, SportsCenter and MLB Baseball together accounted for the majority of Live hours watched. Our viewers are especially football fanatics with Super Bowl LIV: 49ers vs. Chiefs topping the charts for the top-streamed Live sports event. Hulu viewers really do enjoy their sports content!

On the non-sports and non-news related front, the top shows Hulu viewers tuned into were Wheel of Fortune, The Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, Jeopardy and The Simpsons. The Oscars, which aired February 9th, especially piqued our viewers’ interests and was the largest non-sports and non-news single event watched this year.

Binge On!

Who doesn’t love a good binge session? From March through May alone, overall binge hours on Hulu were up 61% YoY and overall binge sessions were up 44% YoY. Hulu Original content dominated the platform in May, with viewers hunkering down at home to watch Little Fires Everywhere, Normal People, Solar Opposites and The Great. They also enjoyed bingeing Letterkenny and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Outside of Hulu Original content, our viewers kicked back and binge watched shows like American Dad!, Law & Order: SVU and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. 

Kids content is also ideal for bingeing (for the young Hulu viewers, of course). Titles such as The Powerpuff Girls (2016), Clarence and Chuggington have the greatest share of its hours coming from binge sessions* (approximately ~14%). Work-from-home parents can definitely attest that Hulu is a godsend for occupying young childrens’ attention.

The Medical Drama that Kept Us Hooked

We’ve looked up to our medical professionals and healthcare workers more than ever during these unprecedented times. Meanwhile, our viewers have been hooked on medical content, with our most watched medical drama being The Good Doctor.

TV Has Your Back

TV is always there for you, whether it’s for background noise or to take a break during the day. The 10-week period between March 15th through May 23rd experienced the largest amount of hours watched per week, peaking during the week of 4/12 – 4/18. In fact, Hulu viewers watched more hours of TV on April 26th than any other day, making it the most streamed day of the year! Some of the most streamed titles that contributed to the record breaking day were SNL at Home (with Brad Pitt hilariously impersonating Dr. Fauci), all 8 episodes of the Hulu Original Little Fires Everywhere, and episode 3 of the ESPN documentary The Last Dance.

Staying Up to Date

News is a top draw for viewers who seek the latest updates on what’s happening in the world around us. And in a year filled with uncertainty, news consumption increased significantly. News was the #1 genre amongst Live subs this year in terms of minutes watched, as nearly 1 in 4 minutes watched fell into the News category. The Top 3 News programs streamed between March through May were ABC News Live, ABC 20/20 and ABC World News Tonight with David Muir.

Wrapping Up the Year: ‘Tis the Streaming Season

With the holidays around the corner and the year coming to a close, there’s a lot to reflect on. More than ever, we’re especially thankful for content to stream and TV show characters that we can personally relate to. 

While remaining socially distanced, you may find yourself tapping into Hulu’s co-viewing experience, Hulu Watch Party — which can help you stay connected with family and friends by virtually watching shows and movies together all while staying apart. So, before the year ends, don’t forget to add those TV shows and movies that you’ve “been meaning to watch” to your watchlist and get ready to get your binge on. Here’s to streaming even more content in the new year!

*[Binge defined as a session with playback (hours watched) from at least three episodes of the same series and at least 80% completion for each episode]


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Andy-Goldberg
ANDY GOLDBERG
SVP, Global Brand Planning & Content
American Express
The first ad I remember:
Fruit Loops with Toucan Sam
My favorite TV show of all time:
Impossible to name just one but Friday Night Lights is on the all-time list.
I’m here to:
Connect with others on the potential of streaming … how things are changing so rapidly and how brands can be at the forefront of amazing content.

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Alex-Lopez
ALEX LOPEZ
Head of Global Brand Communications & Narrative
Nike
The first ad I remember:
Mike & Spike (Air Jordan)
My favorite TV show of all time:
Sports, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, or anything else that starts with “S”.
I’m here to:
Get inspired, build some knowledge, and have some laughs along the way.

Q: Why do you prefer PCM codec?

A: PCM codec is lossless audio quality, so whenever possible, please deliver PCM audio.

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Q&A With
Gadi Amit

Founder, New Deal Design

Gadi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” - a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gadi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Gandi Amit

Found New Deal Design

Gandi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” -- a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gandi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Jonathan Miranda

Emerging Strategy Principal, Salesforce

Another expectation among younger generations seems to be personalization. How are you seeing this play out in media?

Jonathan: If you go into the world of advertising and marketing, customized, personalized advertising is more important than ever before. There’s a realization that eight years of funny commercials that we’ve showed everybody probably for the fourth time, doesn’t work anymore. So there’s a lot of companies moving towards specialized advertising.

How does this type of personalization translate to personalizing content beyond advertising? Who’s going to predict what people will want to watch, and do it first?

Jonathan: It’s not about being the first to predict what people want to watch. It's different. It’s about getting viewers to browse. You want to show them the value of all of the money Hulu has spent and the great range of TV and film for them to choose from.

Q&A With
Julie DeTragila

Head of Research & Insights, Hulu

Julie: There are vast differences between the way under 35-year-olds watch TV and over 35-year-olds watch TV. I grew up in a world where there were maybe 10 channels, and my viewing changed as technology and options changed. Younger viewers started from a really different place. Everything has always been on-demand. Anything they ever wanted to see was available to them, and they therefore have different expectations for TV.

How so?

Julie: One of the things we found with Gen Z is that they really want to be immersed in something for a long time. They want to have content that they can live with for a while; it’s like this long, seamless storytelling. They’ll knock off a couple episodes a night and it will last a couple of months. And then they’ll re-watch it a million times over.

What other shifts have you seen happen-with Gen Z but also more broadly-with the rise of streaming?

Julie: For years, television had to deliver a specific rating. Shows had to appeal broadly or else they wouldn’t survive. And those days are long gone because, with streaming services, shows can reach hundreds of thousands of people or tens of thousands of people and still be considered successful. There’s more experimentation with the types of content; we’re not locked into an hour, a half hour, a comedy, etc. The industry can create really niche shows to appeal to niche audiences, but also simultaneously create big, broad experiences that are shared by millions.

Q&A With
Larissa May

Founder, #HalftheStory

Your work focuses a lot on Gen Zs who, for better or worse, are dubbed “digital natives.” How do you think a generation of digitally native audiences view digital content differently than older generations?

Larissa: I think for young people digital content is a way they’re able to explore their own identities through the story... They want to see themselves and their stories in the content that they’re engaging with.

Tell us a little more about this digital content as Gen Z’s form of self-reflection.

Larissa: Digital content is sort of like a currency. I find that young people want to watch things that their friends are watching so that they can have conversations about it. For example, with Euphoria, young people were just kind of in love with the characters. It was very timely and a bit provocative, and then there was a way that they could see themselves in these stories and connect with their friends about the topics and ideas in the show.

And then also they could almost embody these characters in their own life. I really do think that the TV shows that young people are buying into are actually influencing their culture and their trends and even their language that they’re using.

Q&A With
Richard Frankel​

Global Creative Director, Spotify

What does the future of personalization look like?

Richard: I think it’s all down to trust. We're going to see more opportunity on platforms like Hulu and Spotify where the user trusts us.

That’s really interesting. Another area we wanted to explore is podcasts, and their relationship to video. For example, the show Homecoming is an adaptation of a podcast; the podcast Office Ladies is a spin-off from a TV show. Why do you think the two formats work so well together?

Richard: Anything at all that drives conversation in pop culture, and TV does a lot of that, is worthy of consideration in a podcast environment. Any of these conversations can become multiple audio streams that evolve with experts, interviews, and all kinds of narrative threads that can flesh out characters, or narrative development, or whatever's happening in those shows.

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