Relevant. It’s a word that all brands are striving for with their target audience, and, naturally so are the shows that carry their message. It’s also the word that one Hulu insider used to describe the early performance of Mattel’s Genuine Ken since its launch two weeks ago on the network.
Now just three episodes into its 8-episode season, we’re starting to get some early performance results in, and it looks like Genuine Ken is competing with the big boys now. While Hulu notoriously won’t reveal exact viewership numbers, the relative rankings on the site are pretty telling. When episode 3 of the Whitney Port-hosted series bowed on Tuesday, the series was the number 3 reality show—TV or web—overall on Hulu, besting network TV powerhouses like The Biggest Loser, Project Runway and Kitchen Nightmares. Only two shows were more viewed—The Bachelor, the #1 one show across all of Hulu that day, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
The series even ranked higher than network TV’s scripted hits Desperate Housewives, Parks and Recreation and Community. Today, the series is still holding steady in the top 10 overall.
“Genuine Ken never aired on TV,” Executive Producer Max Benator added. “It’s a web original. We’re not talking about beating other web shows—we’re beating big TV shows.” Benator and his team at hud:sun Media are clearly excited about the early results, adding, “We’re only at the beginning of this run—we’re very excited to watch the growth across our next 5 episodes.”
What’s important to note here is that Hulu computes two rankings: Episode and Full Show. The full show ranking, the one referenced above, is comprised of total views of all episodes. A show like Kitchen Nightmares has 37 episodes available, meaning a single viewer could watch all episodes, counting as 37 views overall. Clearly the more episodes available, the more that show has an advantage in the full show rankings. With Genuine Ken having just 3 episodes released, that means the effective audience for the show is considerably higher, especially given its disadvantage in terms of inventory.
Now, I’ve already gone on record saying that all-male competition reality shows aren’t my boat, but that shouldn’t get in the way of acknowledging that this kind of fare is working with the TV-native audience that frequents Hulu. Mattel, in looking to creatively re-launch consumer interest in Ken, the male half of the Barbie line, decided it was a better buy to back a web show than spend those marketing dollars solely on TV spots.
That last point is what the web series community, and particularly those playing the branded entertainment space, are apt to keep an eye on. Genuine Ken is the first half-hour reality show to bow on Hulu, but it certainly won’t be the last. If brands are finding a better ROI with branded web series with major distribution like Hulu, it’s only the beginning in terms of long form non-broadcast deals.