As Hulu's programming slate deepens, its advertising model is also getting more intricate. Like AOL, the company is offering guarantees based on Nielsen's new OCR (online campaign ratings) system, which purports to group digital television viewers into GRP-like collections of unique ad-watching users. The team-up makes sense, perhaps moreso for Hulu than for AOL, since Hulu offers a hybrid product that is so close to traditional TV: part library content, part day-after streaming of high-profile broadcast shows—some of which fare much better on the streaming service.
"We want to be a catalyst to move more marketing dollars online," Hulu's svp of advertising, Jean-Paul "JP" Colaco, told Adweek. Besides advocating for the medium to the ad community, Colaco said the company was looking to new innovations to make the Hulu consumer experience a better one, as well. A new program will offer "ad choice" to the consumer – choices that go beyond Hulu's current (and much imitated) switch-this-ad-for-that-ad option that pops up before each break. Instead, Hulu users will soon be able to choose to endure (or enjoy) a full ad load before the program begins.
Hulu is also taking aim at political advertising as the presidential election kicks into high gear. Colaco said that Hulu has the capability to target not just by device (which is why you probably won't see ads for a PS3-exclusve Uncharted game on your XBox) but also by geography. So if your IP address places you in a hotly contested district, expect to start hearing why your local politicians are monsters and liars some time in August while you watch you favorite shows on Hulu.
Colaco admits that "it's going to take a while for OCR to roll out," but he chalked the reticence up to industry conservatism, rather than a program that isn't ready for primetime. "Advertisers are still very much in a test-and-learn mode," he said. Colaco predicts that as users become better used to OCR ratings (and as they get a closer look at return on investment), they'll become more enthusiastic, as well.
Among Smash star Megan Hilty singing during the presentation, the incredible lines to get in the door and a Parkour demonstration, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Hulu's upfront also told media buyers what exactly it had been doing with the $420 million in gross revenue it's pulled down between the beginning of 2011 and Q1 of 2012.
Specifically, they've been investing in quite a bit of original programming.
The Awesomes, a new animated series written by SNL scribe Seth Meyers and producer Michael Shoemaker, has been green-lit and is set for 2013. Are We There Yet?staff writer Kenya Barris and The Office writer Danny Leiner are working on a show about four friends who play pickup basketball, set for a premiere later this year. Other shows like Marc Webb's Battleground, Morgan Spurlock's A Day in the Life and Richard Linklater'sUp to Speed have already been announced.
Series in development range farther afield from the traditional TV talent pool but include recognizable names from other media. Specifically, Michael "Dooma" Wendschuh, a video game writer and designer responsible for much of the writing in EA's popular Assassin's Creed series of open-world games, has been tapped to create an urban fantasy show called Flow with David Belle, the developer of extreme running sport Parkour. Also on the slate: Don't Quit Your Daydream, a new series produced by Entourage star Adrian Grenier and based on Grenier's documentary of the same name.