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It was important to be first
It was a serious case of shots fired (sorry, not sorry) in January when Hulu surprised everyone with its Fyre Festival film Fyre Fraud, just days before Netflix's highly publicized Fyre, about the same viral fiasco,was set to debut. The battle between the streaming giants pushed viewers to watch both documentaries to compare and contrast their take on the biggest fraud scam of 2017. According to Hulu, Fyre Fraud has been their most viewed movie for the last four weeks (Netflix historically doesn't release viewership numbers in case you wanted to compare those as well).
Hulu head of entertainment Craig Erwich explained to the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California on Monday why his service purposefully put its documentary out days before Netflix released its film, confirming it was an intentional move.
"We had our documentary in the works for well over a year. We were aware of the other film. When the release date of that other film became clear, we moved very quickly with our finished film to get out ahead of them," Erwich said. "We felt that, given the story, we really wanted to be first and be on record with what we thought was the definitive account of it. It wasn't a dig at anyone else, it was just important for us and important to our viewers that we go first."
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The Hulu documentary took a more sardonic look than Netflix at the debacle where entrepreneur Billy McFarland and Ja Rule managed to convince thousands of people to travel to a remote island in the Bahamas for a music festival that didn't really exist. Hulu even had McFarland in the documentary before he was sentenced ( McFarland was paid for his services), while the Netflix documentary was co-produced by FuckJerry, the media company that helped promote the festival in the first place (and has come under fire recently for its marketing practices). Still, the Netflix documentary focused more on the widespread damage of the scandal while Hulu spent more time highlighting the negligence that allowed the entire thing to happen.
Erwich admitted that the battle between documentaries is what made him happiest and watching the internet react helped make the films almost as big as the festival disaster itself.
"I think between our film and our Netflix film it really became a cultural moment for the week, or the first two weeks, of the year. That was a blast," he said. "Just watching Fyre festival explode, the memes -- the internet culture just took the ball and ran with it. It made it almost another cultural event."
Fyre Fraud is now streaming on Hulu. Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened is now on Netflix.