Netflix and Hulu did battle on Twitter this week after Hulu went negative on its rival and Netflix responded in a controversial manner. While Netflix has plenty of major rivals on various fronts — HBO, Amazon and the entire established business models of theatrical and television — perhaps its longest rivalry is with Hulu. Both are startup-like entities that compete primarily in the streaming video space. And while Amazon and HBO are newer to Netflix’s subscription streaming service turf, Hulu has been at it since 2007.
These days, Netflix and Hulu compete for who can come up with better and more buzzworthy original content, while also bidding against each other for exclusives on older shows and movies. Netflix has more customers, more market share and is more profitable, but Hulu holds its own, competing strongly in the area of back catalogs of TV shows.
Now the two rivals are competing in one more realm — Twitter. This week, Hulu took to Twitter to tout its exclusive content — and Netflix fought back, surprisingly hard. The saga began April 14 when Hulu’s official account tweeted a brief promo touting its large library of past TV seasons, including Seinfeld, Scandal, and Modern Family, as well as recent movies, including Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week. The tagline? “Streaming only on Hulu. Not on Netflix.” Netflix responded three days later.
Of course, “Welcome to your tape” is a reference to 13 Reasons Why, the recent Netflix original series centered on the suicide of a young woman. The “Welcome to your tape” line is a reference to a lead character of the series having left behind cassette tapes prior to her death, and has since become a social media meme.
The first reaction to this is that it’s uncommonly dark, especially for a Twitter dispute between a pair of corporations. And yes, making light of suicide to score points in a social media argument comes very close to the line of bad taste. However, the three days between the tweets likely indicates the question of whether or not to go ahead with the “Welcome to your tape” response was a subject of lengthy consideration on the part of Netflix’s social media team, before they ultimately went ahead and did it.
Either way, the tweets drew lots of attention, which was likely the point for both sides. The Netflix tweet, in fact, drew over 220,000 retweets and over 400,000 likes; while the Hulu one was much less-shared, every one of those retweets included the Hulu tweet. Ultimately, this Netflix/Hulu Twitter interaction is unlikely to move the needle in the streaming wars in any appreciable way, since it’s hard to imagine anyone subscribing or unsubscribing from either service because of it.
13 Reasons Why is currently available on Netflix.