If it was just a Web show with director Kevin Smith, I’d say Hulu was wrapping its arms around the geek market that thrives online these days. But yesterday Hulu launched “Larry King Now,” and it just might be the most important show in the platform’s brief history.
“Larry King Now,” for those too busy to watch the embed above, isn’t all that different from “Larry King Live,” the iconic CNN show King hosted from 1985 to 2010. Sure, the show is updated for the Web — the word “Now” seems like a clever nod to the immediacy of online content; the graphics package is a little more hip, fresh, and youthful; and the location (King’s house!) just screams Web startup. But basically, the show is the same because, well, it’s all about Larry King.
Why is this good for Hulu?
- King brings a high level of credibility to Hulu. Yes, Yahoo and some of the YouTube channels have big names too. But none of those names are clearly associated with the platform’s brand they way they are here.
- Access to celebs. King books great guests. So far The LA Times is reporting that Meghan McCain, Matthew McConaughey, and Betty White are slated to appear on the first couple of episodes. These may not be the biggest names ever, but they are big. McConaughey has two movies to promote (“Magic Mike” and “Killer Joe”), McCain is always outspoken and usually a pretty good lightening rod for controversy that straddles pop culture and politics, and Betty White is, well, Internet gold. But with each new guest King raises the profile of Hulu and that’s a very good thing in terms of brand recognition and future programming.
- New audience. It’s safe to say that King skews older than the current Hulu demo. Signing King would be a bad thing if Hulu were making a niche play. But Hulu’s ambition is far greater, and King might just be the guy who brings in the next audience wave to online video… you know, the people who don’t yet know what streaming really means? Are those people the coveted early adopters? No way! Do they have money and are there enough of them to scale? You bet.
- A promotional platform. I know a lot of people who watch Hulu but say that they just use it to watch TV shows. In other words, they aren’t really watching Hulu originals. Having a talk show, any talk show, is a critical part of any network’s promotional strategy. Having Larry King as that host is just icing on the cake.