Handmaid’s Tale helps Hulu reach 17 million subscribers in 2017

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Jan 10, 2018, 6:02 PM EST (Updated)

Hulu may not have Netflix’s numbers, but the streaming service is enjoying a steady increase in its subscriber base thanks, in large part, to genre shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Marvel’s Runaways, and Future Man.

Hulu directly credited the popularity of originals like The Handmaid’s Tale in helping it surpass the 17-million-subscriber mark in its recent recap of how the service performed in 2017, pointing out the dystopian series currently rates among its top three dramas (along with Law & Order: SVU and This Is Us). In a year's time, the service has grown its subscription base by 5 million, reaching a total estimated at-home audience of 54 million unique viewers.

In addition to original content, Hulu’s library of titles drawn from its studio partners (NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting System, and Disney-ABC Television, which has absorbed all of the 21st Century Fox programming on the service) keeps growing. Hulu played up its offering of the largest streaming TV selection in the U.S., boasting that it now offers 1,700 titles featuring 75,000 unique episodes.

That kind of performance reflects viewers’ growing appetite not only for genre content, but for the freedom to cut the cord and watch TV their way. Hulu’s a long way from reaching the kind of subscription base that Netflix enjoys globally, but the fact it’s able to grow alongside its competitors shows we haven’t yet hit a ceiling.

For comparison, Netflix boasts around 110 million subscribers, with nearly half that number in the U.S. And while Hulu’s still cultivating the side of its brand identity that appeals to viewers as a source for original content, Netflix crossed that bridge long ago, offering up original and exclusive programs and feature films that number in the hundreds — compared with Hulu’s roughly 40 originals and exclusives, many of which have already run their course.

On slate for 2018, though, are more Hulu originals — including orders for more genre shows like The First, a drama that follows humans’ first attempt at placing a colony on Mars, and the Stephen King story-adapted Castle Rock, a psychological horror series set in a fictitious town of the same name.

In the meantime, The Handmaid's Tale keeps racking up awards, and Hulu just gave the green light to more episodes of both Marvel's Runaways and Future Man.