Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) isn't the first name you think of when talking situation comedies, but the fast-growing burrito roller is about to go Hollywood. The 1,553-unit fast-casual chain is bankrolling Farmed and Dangerous, a dark industrial comedy series about the evils of extreme animal-raising practices.
There are four episodes in the initial season, detailing the shenanigans at a fictional industrial giant called Animoil that introduces a petroleum-based animal feed called PetroPellet. The downside to the feed is that cows sometimes blow up.
Yes, it's a dark comedy. The series will initially air on Hulu and Hulu Plus starting on Feb. 17. Unlike Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), which has taken a binge-viewing approach by making entire seasons of original content available at one time, these episodes will be spaced out. New episodes will be introduced weekly on Mondays.
Netflix has made it trendy for original content to gravitate to online services, bypassing finicky cable networks with limited slots. Rolling out on a video service is more prestigious than limiting a production to being merely a Web series.
What does Chipotle stand to gain here? It's worth noting that the show won't feature any explicit Chipotle branding. The eatery is listed as its producer -- this is "an original Chipotle series" -- but it's not as if the company will dump product placements into the piece. This is just a clever way to get its "food with integrity" mantra more exposure.
This won't be the first time that an eatery throws its name behind a series. Nation's Restaurant News pointed out that KFC, Denny's, and Subway have all recently rolled out TV shows or online series. It's an investment in marketing.
Under a best-case scenario, the show's a hit and Chipotle enjoys the viral nature of folks spreading Hulu links across social media sites. Hulu isn't going to be as magnetic as Netflix -- where an Inside Chipotle mini-documentary is listed as one of the more popular streams -- but only because Hulu hasn't established itself as a hub for award-winning original content the way that Netflix has since last year.
Under a worst-case scenario, Chipotle gets back to making burritos and leaves the satire to the professionals. Either way, Chipotle's going to be in a good place.