Hulu Is Starting to Show Itself the Money

Last Updated Oct 15, 2009 4:23 PM EDT

This afternoon, I tested out a theory that I've had a few months now: that Hulu is finally really beginning to sell inventory. Time was, as many of you know, that the site was chock full of public service ads, even on its most highly trafficked content; today, in a spot check of 20 videos I found that at least 18 of 20 carried advertising. Unless you're such a moron as to believe that there should be no advertising anywhere, this is great news. Hulu, and content producers, have to make money to keep the game up and running. Now, it looks like it's happening. By contrast, I conducted a similar experiment back in May and only 40 percent of what I checked carried ads.

Here's how I did it this time around. I went to the top 10 most popular episodes and top 10 most popular shows, and waited to see what advertising, if any, would load before each program started. (I decided against including "Popular Videos" since many of them are short clips that themselves are advertising.) The results:
  • A spot for Foundation Rwanda, which aired at the beginning of the ABC series "Cougar Town" was the only advertiser seemed a highly likely PSA. Another possible one, NJ Kids and Families, which aired at the beginning of ABC's "Eastwick" was probably paid, as much of what the organization seems to be doing is airing attack ads against Chris Christie, the Republican candidate for governor.
  • Advertisers drew from a broad range of categories. The entire roster of advertisers included the contraceptive Nuvaring, Qwest, a trailer of the Starz series "Crash," Gamestop, NJ Kids and Families, the depression drug Cymbalta, Foundation Rwanda, the video game "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves", Sun Chips and Hillshire Farms.
  • Hulu is experimenting with a number of ad models. Viewers could opt to run a long-form commercial for Nuvaring and Cymbalta, or watch commercials interspersed within each show. The "Crash" preview also offered viewers a free episode, while Qwest and several other advertisers presented the series they were sponsoring "without commercial interruption."
Good job Hulu. Keep up the good work.