24 June 2011

Hulu, dancing

Last week we met with some people from Hulu and in this post I’d like to share a couple of thoughts. Some of these musings continue the point that Digital didn’t kill TV, it propelled it.

Hulu’s competition is a Gigantic Venn Diagram

At first you might imagine that Hulu’s main competition is Netflix. Indeed, Hulu recently closed a deal with Miramax to compete more directly with VOD providers. But as their presentation continued, names came up like YouTube (duh) and Facebook (where you can watch The Dark Knight). Additionally Hulu competed on the turf of traditional TV during the recently concluded upfront negotiations.

This list of direct and adjacent competitors adds up to a Gigantic Venn Diagram, which makes sense because while the delivery methods differ, all provide video programming (and video advertising).

Screens everywhere

Hulu recognizes this proliferation of screens and the fact that it’s probably impossible to keep up with every single new screen or device. So their mission statement is screen-neutral and consumer focused. They’re not about online video but “helping people find, discover and consume media.”

Said another way, they’re in the entertainment business just as much as they’re in technology, distribution or programming.

Choose your ad

Hulu is testing a new option for video advertising, which is to give consumers the choice of which ad to see. If you’ve used Hulu, you know that commercials interrupt programming at certain intervals. If you see an automobile ad but you’re not in the market, you can click one of the other images and watch a different message from another advertiser.

Ostensibly this helps advertisers put messages with the most receptive consumers. I predict there will be another effect: Consumers choosing ads they want to see, purely for entertainment value.

Will Hulu survive?

None of the above guarantees Hulu’s future. Originally a joint venture among NBC Universal, News Corporation, Walt Disney and some venture capitalists, it may or may not be turning a profit. This past week Hulu received a takeover offer. Some speculated the whole thing was a ruse.

Whether Hulu dives, survives or thrives, it will be only one chapter in the continuing proliferation of TV programming – and yes, TV advertising.

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