March 26, 2024

Hulu’s Unscripted Slate: Big Hits and Buying Habits

Loring Weisenberger
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Backed by some of the heaviest hitters in entertainment, Hulu has claimed a surprisingly unique and highly valuable position among its fellow streamers. For producers shopping their next unscripted project, Hulu offers a distinctive set of programming advantages that shouldn’t be ignored.

In this post, we’re putting Hulu’s unscripted programming under the microscope. We’ll examine some of its current hits, dig into what it has coming down the pipeline, and analyze the trends to find out what Hulu might be looking for next. 

Evaluating current Hulu hits

Believe it or not, Hulu has been a force in entertainment since 2007. 

In the two and a half decades since then, the platform has evolved into a major player in the streaming wars. Hulu serves as the online home for content from a diverse range of providers, allowing it to conjure a hybrid audience that seems rare compared to its competition.

Hulu’s slate of unscripted series benefits from that same competitive advantage. The streamer pulls together content from networks like ABC, FOX, TLC, in addition to its own streaming originals.

As the platform continues to evolve, Hulu continues to expand and diversify its unscripted content. To understand the streamer’s programming preferences, we’re going to check out three of the platform’s current unscripted hits. Let’s jump in.

1. The Kardashians

Love it or hate it, The Kardashians is a juggernaut in the world of modern reality television. The series is a consistent force in shaping the conversation around unscripted content, spawning more press and higher ratings than most of its direct competitors.

The Kardashians is a Hulu original series that follows the personal lives of the titular Kardashian-Jenner family. Premiering in 2022, the series is effectively a retooling of its predecessor, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which enjoyed a 20-season run on the E! network and cemented the Kardashian clan’s status as reality royalty. 

Hulu knew it had a hit on its hands right away. When the show debuted on the platform, it was the most-watched series premiere for Hulu in the first three days of its release in the United States. Since that auspicious start, The Kardashians has broken into the top 10 most streamed original series on multiple occasions.

The show has already been renewed through at least six seasons.

2. The D’Amelio Show

The D’Amelio Show offers a fresh twist on the same unscripted formula developed by the Kardashian family. 

Another Hulu original, The D’Amelio Show primarily focuses on Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, two talented sisters who happen to be TikTok megastars. The series offers viewers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to maintain a major social media career, following the sisters as they juggle the labor of stardom with the relatable challenges of being young women.

The D’Amelio Show boasts a more down-to-earth approach to celebrity content than many otherwise similar series. The result is a brand-new variation of a classic approach to reality TV, and it’s resonating with audiences. At the time of its premiere, the series was the most-watched unscripted series among all of Hulu’s first-season unscripted titles. 

3. Unscripted content from FOX, ABC, and more

Hulu’s unique ownership pedigree grants it the ability to draw content from a wide variety of sources. While several Hulu original series have been making unscripted waves, the platform also plays home to series from broadcast mainstays like ABC and FOX.

It’s difficult to overestimate the competitive advantage offered by that single characteristic. Not only can Hulu draw viewers in with original content like The Kardashians and The D’Amelio Show, but also it can keep them there with an unprecedented variety of genres, subjects, and audience niches.

Consider just a few of their offerings. Hulu is the streaming home of high-profile competition series like Kitchen Nightmares, The Bachelor, and The Masked Singer. It offers docuseries like 90 Day Fiancé, House Hunters, and Catfish: The TV Show. It even gets into the unscripted drama of daytime TV with titles like Divorce Court and Judge Steve Harvey.

In other words, variety isn’t just the spice of life. It’s also Hulu’s secret sauce.

Looking at upcoming Hulu shows

Now that we’re familiar with the marquee players on Hulu’s current unscripted slate, let’s explore how that slate will expand in the near future. Below, we’ll briefly explore four upcoming shows that Hulu has recently announced or acquired. 

1. Vanderpump Villa

With Vanderpump Villa, Hulu is betting big yet again on the star power of reality TV royalty. The upcoming series is led by Lisa Vanderpump of Vanderpump Rules fame, this time transporting the action to her luxury villa in France. 

Just check out the official logline from Hulu:

“Each scintillating episode follows the elite staff as they try to provide luxurious, once-in-a-lifetime, Vanderpump-curated experiences for guests while dealing with rivalries, romances, and raucous misadventures that come from living and working together 24/7. From firework-filled proposals and opulent events at the chateau to unbelievable excursions and outrageous confrontations in the French countryside, each day at the Chateau brings nonstop heartfelt, humorous, and heated moments, from staff and guests alike. All the while, Lisa evaluates whether this is the team to make her ‘pop up’ experience a permanent reality and add to her ever-growing empire.”

For a savvy industry audience, the above summary reveals a programming strategy with which fans of the Vanderpump-verse will already be familiar. 

While the show will be anchored by Lisa Vanderpump’s well-established presence, the show will mine most of its drama from the Chateau’s staff and guests. It’s a gambit that could lead the Vanderpump spin-off to generate new reality stars all on its own. 

2. Black Twitter: A People’s History

Black Twitter: A People’s History is a three-part docuseries that “charts the rise, the movements, the voices and the memes that made Black Twitter an influential and dominant force in nearly every aspect of American political and cultural life.”

Based on an epic trilogy of Wired articles from Jason Parham, Black Twitter: A People’s History offers a critical visual chronicle of Black Twitter’s uniquely modern and profoundly influential cultural influence. The docuseries is helmed by Prentice Penny, a producer and showrunner who’s worked on scripted hits like Insecure, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and many others.

Black Twitter: A People’s History is set to premiere on May 9. 

3. Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story

For music fans, Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story is an upcoming docuseries about the titular rockstars. According to a Hulu press release, it will chronicle “the epic past and uncertain future of one of the most recognizable bands in the world and its front-man Jon Bon Jovi.” 

The four-part series promises an all-access look at the band’s real-time journey as it navigated a serious vocal injury and other challenges back in 2022. Thank You, Goodnight also collects more than 40 years of personal videos and other materials to chart the group’s rise to fame “from Jersey Shore Clubs to the biggest stages on the planet.”

If you’re ready to get “Livin’ on a Prayer” stuck in your head, don’t worry, we’re more than halfway there. Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story premieres on April 26. 

4. Untitled Wayne Brady & Family Project

Hulu continues to expand its unscripted slate with this recently announced and thus far untitled series starring perennial fan favorite Wayne Brady. Though details about the show are still scant, the streaming platform has released an official logline:

“Everyone knows Wayne Brady – actor, comedian, host, singer and preeminent multihyphenate of this generation. But there’s more to the man seen onstage. What happens when an entertainer so iconic peels back the curtain on the realities of an unexpected life?”

The series will reportedly follow Brady as he works with his ex-wife and business partner Mandie Taketa to run their production company and co-parent their 20-year-old daughter. Hulu has ordered eight episodes of the show. 

As of this post’s publication, the Untitled Wayne Brady & Family Project’s premiere date has yet to be announced.

Understanding why Hulu is a streamer to target

Hulu occupies a unique space among other streamers. The service was originally developed by News Corporation and NBC Universal as “the largest Internet video distribution network ever assembled with the most sought-after content from television and film.”

Since then, Hulu has endured a considerable amount of evolution, including serious changes in ownership over the years. Despite this intense level of change, however, Hulu’s original mission statement still rings surprisingly true. 

Today, Hulu is owned in full by The Walt Disney Company. As a result, the streaming platform is now the digital home for some of the most high-profile content available on television. 

From an audience-driven perspective, Hulu more readily boasts a wider variety of big name content than many of its competitors. 

For sports enthusiasts, Hulu offers programming from ESPN. For fans of traditional TV staples, Hulu offers hit programming like Abbott Elementary from ABC and Saturday Night Live from NBC. For fans of prestige cable action, Hulu offers high profile hits like Fargo, Atlanta, and Shōgun from FX.

In other words, Hulu seems to offer something for everyone, and – of course – that includes fans of unscripted television. 

For producers, the diversity of Hulu is a unique selling point. If you want to catch a lot of fish, your best bet is to use a really big net. 

The diversity of Hulu’s programming, in theory, creates a higher-than-average level of audience crossover. A show is more likely to find and establish its own unique fanbase if it’s in a position to be discovered by a more diverse range of viewers. 

Similarly, the variety of Hulu’s unscripted programming may mark an opportunity. It might suggest that Hulu, as a platform, is open to a wider range of unscripted series compared to a more rigidly branded network or streamer.

With that in mind, let’s analyze some of the trends demonstrated by Hulu’s recent programming choices and break down what they might suggest about the streamer’s buying strategy for the near future. 

Determining what Hulu will want next

If we closely examine the current and upcoming shows referenced above, a few clear trends emerge from Hulu’s recent programming decisions. Below, we’ll make three distinct observations and analyze what they might mean for the future of unscripted content on Hulu. 

1. Hulu is a fan of celebrities

Celebrities are a mainstay of modern reality television in any market. Hulu offers no exception to that rule and, in fact, doubles down on the tried-and-true principle in its own grand fashion.

Exhibit number one for Hulu’s love of celebrity content leans heavily on their partnerships with established reality TV stars. The Kardashians and Vanderpump Villa both feature legends of the genre, while The D’Amelio Show attempts to update the trend by playing directly to the TikTok generation.

However, Hulu’s vision for unscripted celebrity series also reaches far beyond the typical reality fare. The Untitled Wayne Brady & Family Project and Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the lives of superstars who’ve made their names outside of the unscripted universe.

And that’s just scratching the surface.  Titles like It’s All Country, Rachael Ray’s Rebuild, and Coleen Rooney: The Real Wagatha Story each blaze their own unique path into unscripted reality television. As Hulu continues to expand their unscripted slate, we can reasonably expect that further star-powered content is on the streamer’s horizon.

2. Hulu is still down with documentaries

The traditional documentary format is alive and well in the world of feature films, but it often struggles on television. Hulu is breaking the mold with several deep dive docuseries that take a long, hard look at topics that are sure to fascinate audiences of all types.

Upcoming titles like Black Twitter: A People’s History and Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story make a strong case for this particular trend. More than that, they demonstrate the viable variety of the documentary format in long-form television.

This is good news for producers who enjoy a journalistic point-of-view. Hulu seems to value content that goes in-depth on high-profile people and cultural events. 

If your story has enough gravity and the legs to justify multiple episodes, the streaming platform might be the perfect home for your next docuseries project. 

3. Hulu is all about variety

Perhaps the single most crystal-clear trend demonstrated by Hulu’s unscripted programming choices is a dedication to variety. From game shows to hard-hitting docuseries, Hulu seems open to any unscripted format for any audience. 

Looking at the streamer’s full slate, this trend is obviously bolstered by years of established hits from separate cable and broadcast networks who each boast their own programming priorities. However, Hulu’s original series only seem to reinforce that basic strategy.

For producers, Hulu’s apparent love of variety should be cause for celebration. It suggests an open-mindedness to content that crosses traditional audience niches and a willingness to explore unique format possibilities. That’s a tantalizing combination for anyone with a solid project to sell.

Wrapping up

Whether you’re a producer or a viewer, the future is bright for unscripted television on Hulu. We’re excited to see how the streamer’s offerings continue to evolve and can’t wait for their next breakout unscripted hit. 

If you’re researching networks for your next big sale, be sure to compare this post to our analysis of unscripted programming trends on Peacock.

The world of unscripted production is fascinating, and Wrapbook loves to dive deep into its inner workings. To sneak another peek behind the curtain of reality TV, check out Ryan Broussard’s exploration of unscripted production incentives or our free eBook on the art of unscripted collaboration.

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Collaboration at the Speed of Unscripted

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Last Updated 
March 26, 2024


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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