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Future of TV Upfronts Media

Hulu surpasses 20m subscribers, grows engagement by over 60%, adds new original series


By Kyle O'Brien, Creative Works Editor

May 2, 2018 | 6 min read

Coinciding with the launch of the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s Upfront presentation today (May 2) packed as much of a punch as its leading original drama, as the paid streaming service boasted that it has surpassed the 20 million subscriber mark.

Hulu logo

Hulu surpasses 20 million subscribers and announces new programming

Hulu also touted that it has grown engagement by over 60% and that it will launch the ability to dynamically insert advertising within its Hulu with Live TV product later this quarter. This on top of announcing a new lineup of original programming featuring an impressive list of stars, from George Clooney to a new show by Hulu favorite Mindy Kaling.

The Handmaid’s Tale is the streaming service’s superstar, and stars Elizabeth Moss and Samira Wiley were on hand at the newly named Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden to announce that the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel would be back for a third season, even before most of the second season has been made available.

Samira Wiley and Elizabeth Moss

Kaling was also there to announce her version of Four Weddings and a Funeral, a limited series written and executive produced by herself and Matt Warburton, inspired by the 1994 British romantic comedy film. Kaling promised the series would be an updated and diverse version of modern romance.

Other original shows will include a new version of Catch-22 from George Clooney and starring Kyle Chandler; Castle Rock, Hulu’s second project from JJ Abrams and Stephen King set to premiere on July 25; The First, from Beau Willimon and starring Sean Penn; and Little Fires Everywhere, from Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, based on the acclaimed novel of the same name.

Another promising new show on the comedy front is Ramy, a comedy series based on the real-life experiences and comedy of Ramy Youssef, which takes viewers into the world of a first-generation American Muslim who is on a spiritual journey in his politically-divided New Jersey neighborhood. It’s written, executive produced, created by and starring Ramy Youssef, and executive produced by Jerrod Carmichael.

“We’re going to fully explain Islam in 22 minutes a week,” joked Youssef to the Upfront crowd.

Also launching later this year is a horror series done in tandem with Blumhouse Productions, the company behind Get Out and Insidious, called Into The Dark, a brand new horror event series with each new feature-length episode launching the first Friday of every month. It’s part of Hulu’s ‘Huluween’ event in October for extensive Halloween programming.

Seeing growth through a better user experience

Hulu made a case that it is leading the way in user experience, making it better all the time, which allowed it to boost its growth numbers.

Hulu chief executive Randy Freer reinforced Hulu’s position as one of the world's top 10 direct-to-consumer entertainment brands. the company announced that it has surpassed 20 million US subscribers and has grown total engagement on Hulu by more than 60%. In addition, he revealed that 78% of viewing on the service takes place in the living room, on connected TVs.

Randy Freer CEO Hulu

“Hulu is the complete TV experience for consumers, offering both live and on-demand programming and more consumer choice than ever before,” said Freer. “We are the only place that delivers award-winning content, ad loads less than half that of traditional television, with ads that are always viewable and always in a brand-safe environment.”

Ben Smith, Hulu head of experience, said that the company has combined live and on-demand into one seamless experience, and that includes user notifications when their shows are live. Smith added: “We want you to be in control of the experience. At the end of month, you can tell Hulu ‘stop suggesting this to me’ and we will.”

Chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell said: “People want to watch on their terms,” adding that empowered viewers get choice and control. “Ads on Hulu twice more effective than linear TV.”

Beginning later this quarter, Hulu will begin offering dynamically inserted advertising within its Hulu with Live TV product, allowing brands to reach Hulu’s audience through its live sports, news and entertainment programming. The company also announced plans to become the first company to offer a downloadable content experience with opportunities for advertisers. The new feature will make it possible for subscribers to access their favorite shows and movies on the go, with no internet connection required, giving advertisers the opportunity to reach their target audiences in a viewing experience they claimed has never before been available to advertisers.

“Our launch of the industry’s first ad-supported downloadable content experience is yet another example of how Hulu is innovating viewer-first ad solutions to drive powerful results for brands,” said Peter Naylor, SVP of advertising sales at Hulu. “With downloadable content, we're offering brands more ways to connect with engaged viewers who love the experience of watching television, wherever they may be.”

Hulu is also working with Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings (DAR) and that advertisers can use it to measure, guarantee and report campaign audience delivery across all desktop, mobile and connected devices.

Hulu also announced it has expanded its suite of sales effectiveness tools with four new partnerships, offering attribution across the auto and retail categories working with IHS Markit for Polk Campaign Measurement Solutions and Nielsen Buyer Insights, respectively. In addition, Hulu announced an expanded offering for CPG brands with the help of IRI’s attribution solution.

And in partnership with Experian, Hulu will offer advertisers the ability to enhance their CRM data with Hulu’s first-party data to deliver better insight into sales growth on the platform.

Innovid enhances partnership with Hulu to drive engagement

Video marketing platform Innovid announced in tandem with the Hulu Upfront that it has expanded its partnership with the streaming video company. Innovid stated in a blog post that it is launching new interactive formats for connected TVs, “offering advertisers unique opportunities to give consumers more engaging experiences within premium content.”

Future of TV Upfronts Media

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