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Hulu was one of the first major streaming networks to launch, and it went through a lot of hiccups as it matured, including ownership changes and some branding confusion. But with the launch of The Handmaid’s Tale (the first streaming show to win a Best Drama Emmy) in 2017, the streamer found its stride. 

Since then, it has become known for grittier dramas and as the streaming home for network hits like Abbott Elementary, a combination that has helped drive up subscriptions. 

Unlike Amazon Prime and, until this month, Netflix, Hulu has always carried advertising. The ad-supported model allows it to keep subscription prices lower than those two main competitors. Up until now, that advertising had to be purchased through a third-party connected TV publisher. But recently Hulu launched a beta version of its new self-serve advertising platform, Hulu Ad Manager. 

We’ve been anticipating this for a while and we’re excited to receive access. We checked it out, and we’re happy to see that it seems to work well and deliver what our clients want. 

Here’s a rundown on the new service as well as some background on Hulu advertising generally, so you can determine what might work best for you. Of course, you can always contact us to discuss your options.

A Little Hulu History

Hulu History
Hulu History

Hulu launched in 2007, a joint venture of NBC Universal, News Corp. and a private equity investment firm. Disney later joined them, and for the first three years, the streamer basically consisted of recent shows from NBC, Fox and ABC, whose parents were the main backers. Later, Hulu expanded to showing other content and posting originals from its networks more quickly, and eventually the streamer began programming its own. 

Hulu didn’t offer an ad-free option until 2015, essentially jacking up the price of its ad-supported tier to offer programming without ads. It’s experimented with different ad approaches. In 2019, it added a frozen advertising screen when viewers paused their content. It also runs Ad Selector, which invites viewers to interact with content, choosing which type of ad they want to watch. The company claims this increases engagement by double-digit percentages.

Since the launch, Disney has become the main owner of Hulu, with Comcast (NBC’s parent) holding a minority stake. Disney now offers a bundle that includes Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+, two of its other premium streaming options.

How Many Subscribers Does Hulu Have? 

Hulu currently has 46 million subscribers, about a third as many as Disney+ and well behind industry leader Netflix, which boasts 223 million. Keep in mind, though, that Hulu is only streamed in the U.S. and Japan, so it lacks the global reach of its rivals.

Demographics Download
Demographics Download

Who Watches Hulu? Demographics Download

Hulu has a desirable audience. According to Statista, just over half of adults 18-34 say they subscribe to Hulu, compared to 22% of those over 65. Hulu has almost 100 million viewers — that’s the number of people who actually watch the streamer. So that means that each subscription has a little over two people in a household watching. More than half of those Hulu viewers are 34 or younger. 

About 52% of subscribers are female, which matches Netflix’s breakdown, too. The majority of viewers, over three-quarters, watch the service in their living room, which suggests many are using over-the-top devices to view it on TV vs. watching on their phones (mobile viewing is more common in bedrooms).

What’s the CPM for Hulu Advertising? 

We’ve seen Hulu CPMs go as high as $50 in the past two years, which is fairly steep. It remains on the pricier end, but the CPM now hovers around $32. That drop has coincided with the decrease in the number of third-party sites offering Hulu advertising.

What Are the Advantages of Hulu Advertising? 

The majority of Hulu users, 62%, subscribe to the ad-supported version, so you have a lot of people to connect with. Hulu viewers are affluent, with a median income of $96,000 per year, so they have disposable income to spend on your products.

What Are Hulu’s Most Popular Shows? 

Little Fires Everywhere and Handmaid’s Tale are its two biggest hits of all time. More recently, The Bear, Abbott Elementary and Reservation Dogs have generated lots of buzz, though their viewership isn’t as high as the earlier smashes.

Self-Serve Advertising Network
Self-Serve Advertising Network

How the Self-Serve Advertising Network Works

Hulu has more than 75,000 episodes available for roughly 1,700 titles. The self-serve ad network, Hulu Ad Manager, aims to make it easier to connect with the people watching those episodes and target your ad to the right show. 

The system is simple to navigate, with step-by-step instructions across the screens to help you through the self-serve process. 

The targeting breaks down in several ways. You can target by Behavior, Demographics, Interests and Ownership. Say you choose to target by Interest, then you can further narrow your options, such as: 

  • Entertainment
  • Food & Drink
  • Home
  • Lifestyle
  • Travel

Say you choose Entertainment, then you can refine your audience’s interests by categories such as: 

  • FPS Games
  • Gamers
  • Gaming Superfans
  • Hip Hop Lovers
  • Live Events, Sports, Theater

Or maybe you want to target by Demographics. You can pick from: 

  • Career
  • Education
  • Financial 
  • Milestones

Each one contains subcategories, such as this for Milestones: 

  • Parents With Grade Schoolers
  • Parents with Kids 0-12
  • Parents With Pre-Schoolers
  • Parents With Teens
  • Parents With Teens: College Interest

You can also use more basic qualifiers to narrow the audience, such as age group, gender, zip code or designated market area. Another option is to exclude certain locations (something to explore if, perhaps, your product is only offered in the West or you want to promote a tour that won’t hit the East Coast). You can segment so many different ways that you are sure to find the audience you’re looking for. 

The very specific categories make it easier to seek people who may connect with your ad. For example, if you have a new album by Lady Gaga to promote, you might choose your advertising based on the characteristics of her biggest fans, who tend to be female, between the ages of 15-30, and heavy social media consumers. You can construct a campaign based on these tendencies and reach people who are most likely to buy her album.

The new self-serve platform will make it easier for advertisers who may have flirted with Hulu in the past to make the commitment — and the lower CPM won’t hurt, either. Want to talk more about Hulu advertising or get help using the Ad Manager? Contact us today!

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