By Yvonne Villarreal
Los Angeles Times
Should Hulu end up being the rebound platform for “The Mindy Project,” it’d be another high sign of the streaming service’s aggressive push to up its game.
Universal Television, the studio behind the Mindy Kaling vehicle, has begun talks with Hulu after Fox passed on a fourth season. The deal, should it happen, would include an additional two seasons, and possibly more.
The series premiered in September 2012 to about 4.6 million viewers. And its numbers have dipped from there: Its recent Season 3 finale delivered 2.1 million total viewers.
Taking the show and its loyal fan base to the streaming outlet would at least make sense. Hulu is co-owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal (in addition to Disney’s ABC Television Group and 21st Century Fox’s Fox Broadcasting Co.) and has become a second home to “The Mindy Project.” Past seasons (totaling 67 episodes) are already available on the digital outlet, and it’s one of the top-performing scripted shows on the service.
It wouldn’t be the first broadcast show rescued by an online platform. After getting canned by NBC, “Community” moved to Yahoo Screen for its sixth season. And when NBC passed on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” even before it premiered on the network, the comedy jumped to Netflix.
When The Times spoke with Kaling ahead of the third season finale, “The Mindy Project’s” fate seemed doomed. When asked whether she would consider shopping it to a video streaming service such as Hulu or Netflix, Kaling said that she wouldn’t be opposed to it but that was also cautious about preparing for the worst.
“Maybe some people thought, ‘You should wrap it up just in case,” Kaling said. “But I’m not that type of person who can operate under the assumption of failure. If it’s going to lead to more stories or it doesn’t, I’ll sort of face that when the time comes. I want to see them again. And I don’t want to write from the point of view of it ending, if I don’t believe this is the end.”
Scoring a name like Kaling would also keep the new-found momentum going for Hulu, often viewed as the underdog in the video streaming world. The streaming service has been working hard to establish its brand as its competitors, Netflix and Amazon, are showing awards muscle with shows such as “House of Cards” and “Transparent” between them.
Hulu just landed a major SVOD syndication deal with Sony TV for the entire “Seinfeld” library — paying close to $1 million per episode. It also signed an output deal with AMC that would make Hulu the exclusive SVOD home for all future shows AMC Studios produces for AMC Networks, including “The Walking Dead” spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead.”
And the company unveiled a partnership with Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting that would give Hulu exclusive video-on-demand rights to previous episodes of shows on the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, along with select current and coming series from TNT and TBS. It all follows a slew of heavy-hitting licensing deals over the last 12 months, landing streaming rights to big shows such as “Empire” and “CSI,” and fuller deals with networks such as FX, Turner, Discovery, E! and Bravo.
Hulu is also gearing up to launch some original programming that boasts big names, including the James Franco-starrer “11/22/63,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel from J.J. Abrams, and the Amy Poehler-produced comedy “Difficult People.”