Since 'The Handmaid's Tale,' Hulu's new subscriber sign-ups have nearly doubled, as it takes on Netflix

Ofglen and Offred salvaging The Handmaid's TaleHuluAlexis Bledel and Elisabeth Moss won Emmys for their performances in Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

You might not have noticed until recently, but Hulu’s been running original programs for six years.

Thanks to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which premiered in April and won eight Emmys in September (including the first outstanding drama win for a streaming service), things are finally starting to take off for its original series.

Hulu noticed a significant rise in subscriber numbers this year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, its daily sign-ups have gone up 98% since March.

For years, Hulu was seen as the go-to place for watching last night’s episodes of TV, not a go-to place for original content like Netflix. Before “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu had other great original shows, though none got as much buzz as the dystopian drama. And now, Hulu is optimistic that its success with “The Handmaid’s Tale” changes that for good.

Hulu’s head of experience, Ben Smith, told The Hollywood Reporter that “The Handmaid’s Tale” has opened up a bigger conversation about “everything else that is on Hulu.” For the recent surge in subscribers, Smith also gives credit to other big changes and additions Hulu made this year. These include the live television option ($US40 per month), the HBO add-on (which helped get new subscribers around the season seven “Game of Thrones” premiere date in July), the Cinemax add-on, and its Spotify partnership that gets students a discount.

Hulu is continuing to make original shows with big names attached.

Joe Stillerman — who’s responsible for shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” in his time at AMC — joined Hulu as Chief Content Officer in May. Stillerman is attracting big names to Hulu’s original shows with an upcoming series from “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon as executive producer, starring Sean Penn. The show, called “The First,” has already drawn “Designated Survivor” star Natascha McElhone to leave network TV.

One of Hulu’s existing shows that is worth watching is “Difficult People,” which stars Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner, has loads of pop culture references, and includes famous guest stars like Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Lucy Liu, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Julianne Moore. The excellent comedy — which is loved by critics — follows two people-hating best friends in New York City, and just ended its third season.

“Harlots,” another Hulu original loved by critics, follows a female brothel owner struggling to raise her daughters in 18th century London. It made its debut in March, right before “The Handmaid’s Tale” premiered.

Along with the Sean Penn-starring “The First,” big upcoming Hulu originals include “Marvel’s Runaways” from the team that gave us “Gossip Girl” and “The OC,” and “Future Man” starring Josh Hutchinson of “The Hunger Games” franchise.

In addition to stepping up its original programming, with $2.5 billion for its 2017 programming budget, Hulu continues to step up its streaming deals for older shows, proving its a major competitor with Netflix in both areas.

On Wednesday, Hulu announced that it will stream the Emmy-winning Tina Fey comedy “30 Rock,” which leaves Netflix on October 1. This licensing agreement with NBC Universal also gave Hulu the rights to stream the iconic 90’s sitcom “Will & Grace” just in time for its return to NBC on Thursday night.

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