As Hulu’s subscriber base expands yet again, to 28 million, the streaming service is rolling out a new ad format that its broadcast and cable peers can’t compete with: an offering specifically targeted at binge viewing.
The streaming service revealed the new offering—which it calls the industry’s first binge advertising experience—today at its NewFronts event, held at the New York location that bears its name: Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
During the celeb-packed event—which included appearances from George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Chrissy Teigen, Kate McKinnon and Mindy Kaling—Hulu also unveiled plans to create a food vertical with Teigen and chef David Chang, ordered a new series starring and produced by Nicole Kidman based on a book from Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty, picked up two new Marvel live-action shows and greenlit a limited series starring Saturday Night Live’s McKinnon as disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.
Peter Naylor, Hulu’s svp and head of advertising sales, stressed the streaming service’s “viewer-first approach to advertising,” he explained to Adweek. “We’re trying to recognize that the viewer experience in on-demand viewing is different from traditional TV, and we should and must evolve the ad experience.”
To that end, Naylor has created a new offering targeting binge-viewers, which he said accounts for as many as half of Hulu’s subscribers each month. There are several options for marketers to reach bingeing audiences with “situationally relevant” creative, he said: “The advertiser can give the viewer the third or fourth episode in their binge a commercial-free experience. Or you can recognize that someone is bingeing with a piece of creative that says something like, ‘You’ve been watching a long time. Why not call DoorDash and get some food delivered?’”
The binge ad format helps differentiate Hulu from its linear competitors, similar to the pause ad format (which displays a static ad when viewers hit pause) that Hulu first announced in January, and, Naylor said today, will come out of beta in August.
This summer, Hulu also expects to finish beta testing its performance-based measurement for brands, which helps marketers determine how many people purchase a product, download an app or sign up for additional information as a result of seeing their ads on the streaming service.
“So far, we’re seeing up to 20% lift in purchase from the advertisers who are with us” in the attribution offering, said Naylor, who also told buyers that Hulu has capped its ad units at 90 seconds and expanded its frequency cap for each piece of creative, which used to be two times per hour, to just four times per day.
“This is all about making sure brands get the right reach and the right exposure without ill benefits of poor frequency control,” said Naylor.
Hulu’s subscriber total, which jumped 40% last year to reach 25 million in January, has increased again to 28 million with 26.8 million monthly paid subscribers and 1.3 million promotional accounts. (The previous 25 million figure included both paid and promotional accounts.)
“We’re growing like mad at a same point in time when others are struggling,” said Naylor.
Renewals and new series orders
Following its early 2019 slate of critically-acclaimed shows like Shrill and The Act, which proved that the streaming service is more than just The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu today renewed freshman series Pen15 and Ramy for second seasons. Two weeks ago, it picked up Shrill for Season 2, as star Aidy Bryant confirmed in her recent Adweek cover story.
Joining the returning shows will be several new series, which Hulu announced at today’s NewFront.
The company is teaming up with Vox Media Studios, chef David Chang’s Majordomo Media and Chrissy Teigen’s Suit & Thai Productions to create food-centric Hulu original programming, including a cooking show starring Chang and Teigen, tentatively called Family Style. (Separately, Hulu has signed Teigen to a two-year development deal.)