Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hulu’s Pitch to Advertisers: Four Million People Pay Us to See Your Ads!

Today you can watch all the Web video you want for free, with ads. Or you can pay a subscription fee and get no ads.

So how about Hulu Plus, the subscription service that runs ads in the middle of its TV reruns? Turns out it is doing just fine: Hulu says its paid service now has four million subscribers paying $8 a month.


That’s not nearly as much Netflix, which boast some 30 million subscribers for its ad-free service (also $8 a month). But that seems awfully respectable to me, considering that Hulu Plus has been around (in one form or another) for less than three years.

Maybe even impressive, since much of what Hulu Plus offers are TV shows you can see for free on broadcast TV, or even on “regular” The main selling point for Hulu Plus, I think, is that you can watch the service on a variety of screens, including phones, tablets and your actual TV, via devices like Apple TV.

The announcement comes as Hulu puts on a show for advertisers in New York, part of the week-long “newfront” presentations the big video websites are hosting. (Yesterday: Yahoo! Tomorrow: YouTube!)

While Hulu is still best known as the place to watch last night’s TV (or in some cases, last week’s TV), it is interested in promoting the stuff it has that you can’t see on TV.

Like Netflix and Amazon, it is investing in its own original programming; unlike Netflix and Amazon, its efforts have gotten much less attention, a fact that steams Hulu’s management team. So if you want to help them out, go ahead and look at the preview reel for “The Awesomes,” an “animated show for adults,” co-created by Seth Meyers of “Saturday Night Live”; it seems to be the new show Hulu is most excited about.

The good news for Andy Forsell, Hulu’s acting CEO, is that advertisers are already receptive to Hulu’s pitches, both for the reruns it airs and the new stuff it is showing. It looks like TV and Hulu is selling it like TV, and many ad guys like that a lot, especially compared to Google’s more … Googley approach with YouTube.

The bad news for Forsell is that he’s acting CEO, because Hulu’s corporate future is completely unsettled. It’s entirely possible, and probably likely, that the site, currently owned by News Corp.,* Disney and Comcast, will have a different ownership structure by the end of the year, and may have a different agenda, as well.

I’m guessing that doesn’t come up during this morning’s presentation. What I don’t know is whether that matters to advertisers or viewers.

*News Corp. also owns this website.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik