In what Hulu svp of advertising sales Peter Naylor calls a “fortuitous” bit of timing, The Handmaid’s Tale made its critically acclaimed debut just a week before Hulu’s NewFronts presentation on Wednesday morning, where execs will be touting the drama’s instant breakout success to buyers and clients. But that’s just one of several big swings for the streaming service that Naylor and Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins will highlight during the event. Explains Hopkins: “There’s a lot of momentum and exciting things happening across the board at Hulu this year.”
Chief among them will be the launch later this month of Hulu’s live TV bundle, which will offer livestreaming access to dozens of networks from companies like CBS Corp., 21st Century Fox, Disney, Turner and A+E Networks—as well as a standard Hulu subscription—for $40 a month. That will debut as Hulu rolls out a new, personalized user interface for all subscribers, which will integrate its live and on-demand programming. “We’ve taken care to make sure that when we launch, it makes sense, it’s easy to use and it’s seamless,” says Hopkins.
The company believes its interface overhaul will separate Hulu’s live TV offering from that of competitors like Sling and DirecTV Now. “We’re going to be offering up a whole new way of navigating and personalization to make sure we’re serving up the right thing to a viewer every time they log in,” says Naylor, adding that the new interface will also open up sponsorship packages beyond the usual 15- and 30-second spots. Plus, brands can take advantage of the same addressable advertising capabilities already available on the service, including dynamic ad insertion and dynamic ad replacement into the cloud-based DVR programming that will be offered with the live TV package. “We don’t lose anything to being time-shifted,” says Naylor. “We can recapture those views whenever the viewer wants to watch their content.”
Meanwhile, Hulu is doubling its original programming output this coming year. In addition to Handmaid’s, new shows include Future Man, a time-travel comedy premiering this summer produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg; The Looming Tower, based on Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé about 9/11 and the rise of al-Qaida; and Castle Rock, an ongoing series from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King that will reimagine King’s characters and themes centered around the fictional Maine town that pops up in so many of his best-selling novels. And the company’s recent acquisition of exclusive streaming rights to beloved sitcom The Golden Girls is already resonating with viewers. “We knew it was going to be big, but it’s exceeded our expectations,” says Hopkins.
With 75 percent of Hulu viewers now streaming its content via connected TV devices like Roku and Apple TV (up from 70 percent a year ago), Naylor will be introducing new interactive advertising partnerships at Hulu’s NewFronts event, offering brands additional opportunities to enhance and target their messaging in the living room environment.
In another big development for advertisers, for the first time next season, Hulu will be using Nielsen’s digital ad ratings to measure viewership on all of its platforms. “The concern is there are a lot of holes in measurement; we’re filling them in. No more Swiss cheese,” says Naylor. “I always say, if you want to know what TV is going to look like in the future, just look at Hulu today.”