Hulu launches ad format to 'reward' binge watching

Hulu defines binge watching as a viewer watching three or more episodes of a given series at a time

As consumers embrace binge watching TV shows, Hulu is hoping to cash in on another new ad format.

The company has launched an ad experience specifically designed for binge watching, which counts for nearly 50% of viewing on the ad-supported version of the platform.

When a viewer is about to start their third consecutive episode of a show, a branded message will appear that will "reward" their binging behavior, said Jeremy Helfand, vice-president, head of ad platforms at Hulu. The ad experience presents viewers with either their next episode commercial-free or a personalized offer from a brand.

Kellogg’s, Maker’s Mark and Georgia-Pacific are initial launch partners with Hulu and agency Publicis Media.

"A critical component of this ad experience is the use of machine learning to predict when viewers are likely to start binge watching a show," said Helfand. "The creative execution then serves contextually relevant messaging from our brand partners that acknowledges a binge watching session has begun."

Hulu expects to make binge ads generally available in the second half of 2020. The company has confirmed that there will be two waves of exclusive launch advertisers, all Publicis Media clients, during the beginning of next year.

Hulu already offers pause ads and branded overlays on paused content. It hinted at launching binge ads during its May upfront presentation.

“A laser focus on consumer occasions is one lever we pull when making marketing decisions at Kellogg,” said Gail Horwood, chief marketing officer of Kellogg’s North America.

“Engaging with, and rewarding consumers, during a marathon entertainment session allows us to be an intrinsic part of this unique snacking occasion and taps into the thrill TV fans have when they’re racing through their favorite shows.”

Some ad buyers worry that new ad formats can come across as "gimmicks" that may interest advertisers but fall flat with consumers.

Hulu isn't the only big name testing new ad formats. Variety reported that Xandr is developing its own version of pause ads – sound-on video ads that will play when viewers pause an AT&T video service, including DirecTV.

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