Hulu CTO: Content rights need to be unlocked for experimentation

Hulu can’t really experiment with using video clips in its user experience without running into “Guild issues.”

NEW YORK—Hulu is just getting its live TV product off the ground, but it’s hoping to differentiate from other pay TV services by putting the user experience first.

Hulu CTO Tian Lim, speaking today at Streaming Media East, said that when the team was rebuilding the Hulu UX to add live TV, the company did its best to insulate viewers from the complexity of being able to view everything—from VOD content, to live, to C7.

“The user experience has always played second fiddle to the rights,” Lim said, adding that most pay-TV operators typically lay the user experience on top of the rights.

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To change that for MVPDs and virtual MVPDs, Lim said that content rights need to become more unlocked to allow for more experimentation so providers can find better ways to merchandise and monetize content with needing 3-4 ad pods every 15 minutes.

By building better user experiences, Lim said providers can create highly engaged users who can be more effectively targeted and will therefore command higher CPMs. Higher CPMs, in turn, could result in lighter ad loads and a better overall experience.

But Lim said there are still many factors standing in the way of that type of innovation. For example, he mentioned that Hulu can’t really experiment with using video clips in its user experience without running into “Guild issues.”

Lim dedicated much of his talk to discussing the hurdles Hulu faced with reconciling all the metadata sources Hulu was using, something he described as a “very painful process.”

To build the new Hulu metadata database, the company combined its existing SVOD metadata with SCTE 35 and 224, 14 day schedules and some editorial content.

For out of band metadata, Hulu wanted to use SCTE 224, but many providers were using SCTE 224 differently, or using APIs, spreadsheets with color coding or emails

Lim said that, while SCTE 35 works well for ad pods in broadcast, it doesn’t seem to work for internet delivery, leading Hulu to actually disable it on some channels because it was too broken

Lim also shed light on the issues that Hulu ran into adding images to its UX.

“Art is a core piece of metadata that we’d like to see the industry take more seriously,” Lim said.

Through the build process for Hulu live TV, Lim said he learned that in the future, UX innovation for live will need richer metadata and a common ID space for entities including sports and movies as well as renditions and cuts.

Lim said that those types of innovations are part of preparing for a world with dynamic (and fewer) ad pods, “where all ads are relevant, timely and dynamically inserted.”

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