Hulu executive says 5G may limit demand for downloadable content

Dan Rayburn (left), chairman of the Streaming Summit, speaks with Hulu's Rafael Soltanovich (right) Monday during the NAB Show. (Ben Munson/FierceVideo)

LAS VEGAS—Hulu may still be working to add downloadable content as an option on its streaming video platform, but one executive said the demand for downloads may dwindle.

Rafael Soltanovich, vice president of software development at Hulu, sat down for a fireside chat with Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan and chairman of the Streaming Summit, on Monday during the NAB Show. When the topic turned to downloads, Soltanovich said outside factors could impact consumers’ need for the feature.

He said downloads still have use cases for consumers like on airplanes where connectivity still comes at a premium. But he said there are other forces at play like 5G that could increase coverage and capacity to the point where downloading content isn’t necessary.

“I see the reliance on downloads diminishing,” Soltanovich said.

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He added that downloadable content is not a top request Hulu gets from its users, but bringing back the guide for live TV was. With its recent UI/UX redesign, Hulu tried to get away from consumers having to know what channel they needed and where it was in the grid so it could shift focus more toward the programs on those channels. But Soltanovich said consumers missed the guide so Hulu brought it back.

The grid guide plays a role in Hulu’s live TV service, which the company launched in 2017. Soltanovich said Hulu had to get its PhD in live TV quickly, and that involved learning how to handle all the incoming video from hundreds of network affiliates. He said that Hulu ingests between 1,000 and 2,000 livestreams daily and that because of adaptive bit rates the company is doing up to 10,000 profiles for those streams.

But that workload has helped lead to increased traffic for Hulu’s live TV service. Soltanovich said Hulu had 4x the concurrent streams for the Super Bowl this year compared with 2018.