There are three TV shows I have come to love even though I’ve never watched them on TV. Or on DVD. Or via iTunes. They are: Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Rescue Me. And they are all available — the complete catalog, whenever you want, in high-quality video, with a beautiful user interface — on my computer, for free, thanks to Hulu.com.
Hulu is a likely game-changer for TV, an ad-supported site with, as of a few days ago, programming from three of the four major networks (as well as movies and lots of other video programming). ABC (Disney) has just joined NBC and News Corp. (Fox) in a joint distribution/ownership venture that, for TV viewers at least, is a major win. Hulu’s mounting success is a growing threat to Apple’s iTunes as well as Google/YouTube. As NBC’s Jeff Zucker told The Times: “Advertisers have made it clear that they want a safe environment unpolluted by videos of cats on skateboards.” (And, I would add, a comments thread straight out of a swamp, or maybe a j.v. locker room.)
In the following ad, featuring Rescue Me star Denis Leary, Hulu claims to be “an evil plot to destroy the world,” but it may be one of those ads that exaggerates just a bit.
Jason Kilar, Hulu’s CEO, joined the company after nearly a decade at Amazon.com, where he wrote the original business plan for Amazon’s video and DVD business and became senior vice president of the company’s Worldwide Application Software. As he tells it, Hulu’s super-clean look and feel was inspired, in part, by his first trip to Disney World.
Kilar has agreed to take your questions, so fire away in the comments section below. As with past Q&A’s, we will post his answers here in short course. I will prime the pump with a few of my own:
1. Even just a year ago, and certainly two, Hulu was hardly an obvious choice to be the front-runner in the online TV space. What happened? Tell us about a few tipping points, or lucky breaks, or wondrous negotiations.
2. Tell us a bit about ad revenues. I have read that you “stomp” YouTube in terms of revenue per user and per program — easy to believe — but how much money is coming in? With only a few ads per program, it is hard to imagine that revenues are very robust — especially considering that digital ad rates in other media (newspapers, e.g.) are dwarfed by their traditional counterparts.
3. Because a TV program on Hulu typically carries ads from just one sponsor, the branding seems to make a bigger impression than if that one sponsor buys one spot among many sponsors. What can you tell us about how this single-sponsor dynamic works, from both the user and advertiser ends?
Addendum: Kilar answers your questions here.