Hulu has sold sole sponsorship rights to Hyundai for its arty new branded unscripted series The High Road. The series, shot in black and white and set in New York, is hosted by Mario Batali, who interviews celebrities in the Big Apple including George Stephanopoulos, Isabella Rossellini, Jimmy Fallon and Rachael Ray.
"People are expecting more and more content on their own terms—what they want when they want it," said David Matathia, director of marketing at Hyundai. "I think for us [branded content gives] a huge advantage—the beauty and challenge of the auto industry is that when we have a launch, we put a lot of effort in to build awareness to this big explosive burst, and then the question is how you sustain that launch activity when you have to move on to the next car or the next program. So, even though this is within our launch window, it's not going anywhere. It makes sure the car stays in the space outside the launch window."
Hyundai has made several major buys for the Genesis—the auto maker introduced the car during the Super Bowl and Hyundai is among the seven official World Cup sponsors. Interestingly, unlike many digital video buys, the Hulu sponsorship isn't demographically driven for Hyundai. "I don't think digital video is a youth play anymore," Matathia said. "I think a lot of those platforms are more and more common."
“My vision for The High Road was to capture conversation with interesting people outside of their personal and professional domains. It’s my love letter to New York City,” said Batali, in a statement.
Matathia said the partnership was valuable to the auto company given its high profile in the digital video world. The show is going to be presented by Hyundai, and will specifically support the new Hyundai Genesis. "In the opening of about half the episodes of the show, there'll be an introductory piece that'll feature the car on its journey through New York," said Matathia. "And in one of the episodes with Isabela Rosellini, they actually film part of an episode in the car."
It's a major get for Hulu, which had The High Road among its "Spotlight" series—shows provisionally green-lit on the condition that they land a single, large sponsor who would agree to help produce the integrated content and pay for the show's profile. The model is unconventional, but Matathia believes that "this is where viewership patterns are going."