Hulu launches new ad experience tailored to binge watching

The ad experience could prove to be popular on Hulu. The company said nearly 50% of ad-supported viewing hours on its service are spent binge watching. (Hulu)

Hulu is tinkering with the advertising experience on its streaming service and trying out ad breaks and formats that will be less disruptive during binge watching sessions.

The service, which is run by Disney, is testing out a new feature that will recognize binge watching behaviors and then reward viewers by either presenting their third consecutive episode ad-free or with a special offer from a brand.

Hulu said that it is using machine learning to predict when viewers are likely to start binge watching a show so it can then serve contextually relevant messaging from its advertisers. Early participants include Hulu’s agency partner, Publicis Media, along with advertisers including Kellogg’s, Maker’s Mark and Georgia-Pacific.

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The ad experience could prove to be popular on Hulu. The company said nearly 50% of ad-supported viewing hours on its service are spent binge watching, which it defines as a viewer watching three or more episodes of a given series at a time.

Peter Naylor, senior vice president and head of advertising sales at Hulu, said in May that his company counts 82 million overall viewers, and added that nearly 70% of those viewers are on Hulu’s $5.99-per-month ad-supported plan. That works out to 58 million, or an average of 2.9 viewers per Hulu account.

Earlier this year Hulu lowered the price of its ad-supported service, which could help the platform generate more advertising revenue. According to an eMarketer report from March 2019, Hulu’s gross ad revenues are predicted to approach $2.7 billion by 2021. The firm expects Hulu will tally up about $1.82 billion in 2019 (up 25.3%) and $2.24 billion in 2020 (up 22.7%) before climbing another 20.5% in 2021. The firm said its 22.7% growth forecast between 2019 and 2020 is nearly double its previous target of 11.4%.

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