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Hulu Earns $400 Million from Brands: Is it a Smart Ad Buy for you in 2022?

Hulu Earns $400 Million from Brands: Is it a Smart Ad Buy for you in 2022?

Since launching in 2007, Hulu has made a name for itself with an ability to offer a seemingly endless stream of premium content, including the likes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The Handmaid’s Tale and a variety of titles from the Marvel Universe. 

Outside of Netflix, Hulu is arguably the biggest name in OTT. As of Q4 2021, Hulu had 43.8 million paid subscribers. (Netflix reported 221.8 million paid subscribers at the end of Q4 2021.)  

Brands collectively spent more than $400 million on Hulu ads in 2021, but with so many new alternatives, are Hulu ads the best investment for you or your clients? 

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Hulu Adds Some “Magic” to its Streaming Service

It’s hard to imagine Hulu ever totally catching up to Netflix in subscribers, but that isn’t stopping it from trying. In 2019, Disney purchased Comcast’s stake in Hulu, giving it total control of the streaming service. 

Coming under Disney’s wing was Hulu’s chance to gain ground on Netflix, namely because it meant that it could offer content from Disney, Pixar and ESPN, all of which The Walt Disney Company owns. 

Soon after the purchase, Disney announced a bundle that included Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu for $12.99 a month. 

On the day of the announcement, then-Disney CEO Robert Iger said that the bundle gives Disney the ability “to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers.”

Since bringing these entertainment powerhouses together, the number of paid subscribers for Hulu has increased by nearly 74%.

What Does Hulu Promise Brands?

Hulu isn’t resting on its laurels despite being an OTT advertising veteran.

In July 2020, Hulu released a self-service tool, Hulu Ads Manager, eliminating the need for brands to go directly through Hulu to get ads live. While the tool is available to any brand, Hulu designed it specifically for those of the small and medium variety.  

Faye Trapani, Director, Self Service Platform Sales at Hulu, said, “We understand that small- and medium-sized businesses are faced with mounting challenges…Hulu Ads Manager gives businesses a way to include streaming TV ads in their overall marketing strategy to help grow their overall business.”

Still, Hulu has plenty that appeals to big brands, including an ad suite that consists of ad types such as Ad Selector, which allows subscribers to control their ad experience. Hulu also offers interactive video formats that brands can customizable to inform subscribers about products, features and services. 

Combine a long list of ad types with impressive targeting capabilities and a sizable addressable audience and it’s easy to see why so many brands flock to Hulu. 

MediaRadar Insights on Hulu

MediaRadar began tracking* Hulu advertising on January 1, 2021. 

In 2021, more than 1,000 companies promoted over 3,300 unique brands. Their spending exceeded $400 million, even after a 16% dip in Q4 compared to Q1.

Of the companies buying ads in 2021, 22% did so every quarter. Looking at Q4, 20% of the companies (207) buying ads did so for the first time, helping drive a 59% increase in the number of advertisers during Q4 compared to Q1.

Hulu Top Categories, Jan. 1, 2021- Dec. 31, 2021 Chart

The Media category is the largest product category advertising on Hulu, with 24% of all buys coming from these brands. Beyond that, Retail accounts for 12% of all spending, while Tech, Finance and Restaurants and Bars come in at 10%, 9% and 6%, respectively. 

Although not technically one of the top categories, Food and Pharma came in at 5% of total buys.

Hulu # of Brands, Q1 2021- Q4 2021 Chart

Some Top Advertisers:

  • Comcast features ads for its NBC shows like Mr. Mayor and The Voice as well as its Peacock programming.
  • Berkshire Hathaway buys ads for some of its brands like GEICO, Duracell, Benjamin Moore and Dairy Queen.
  • Comcast and Berkshire Hathaway spent the most with Hulu despite advertising across other OTT platforms.

Ad Analysis

Ads Per ShowAds per Hour
Hulu Originals7.412.0
Hulu Licensed 10.113.8
  • Hulu’s ad loads are increasing, going from 9-10 ads per hour in January to 12 ads per hour currently. The increase in ad load is likely due to rising revenue goals. 
  • Hulu Originals have fewer ads than licensed shows, with subscribers seeing roughly seven ads per show.
  • One-third of ads on Hulu are 15 seconds and a half are 30 seconds. The remaining ads are between 5 and 10 seconds. 

Are Hulu Ads a Smart Buy in 2022?

In short, if you have the budget, yes. 

Hulu’s addressable audience combined with its advanced ad capabilities makes it an OTT advertising powerhouse that’d be rivaled only by Netflix (if it decided to adopt an ad-supported model). 

That said, the competition is stiff, especially from major brands. The high ad load (roughly 12-14 ads per hour, depending on the content) also means people may be less receptive to ads. 

To put this in perspective, HBO Max and Peacock, the two platforms with the lowest ad loads, show approximately nine ads per hour, respectively.

There’s no denying that Hulu’s a popular option for brands, but if we zoom out and look at the entire landscape, it’s clear that OTT advertising isn’t as popular as one might think. In fact, OTT accounts for just 3% of all digital ad spending. 

For this reason, brands looking to take advantage of OTT’s engaging and immersive advertising opportunities may want to consider alternatives with fewer advertisers and lesser ad loads—at least for now. 

See where your competitors are spending, how much and what creative they’re using. Use these insights to build your next campaign strategy. Hulu might be at the top of your list. 

Check out our new OTT Trend Report for more insights on the streaming market.

*A Note on Methodology: Overall, MediaRadar’s data covers both standalone streaming platforms and TV Anywhere viewing from top linear networks. Standalone streaming services are sampled from the ad-supported streaming packages, across profiles in the 18-34 and 35-49 TV demos.