Hulu’s Lip Service

Recently I wrote about Hulu’s missed opportunity in not acting on the feedback they receive on the ads shown on the service.  In fairness to Hulu, I neglected to mention that they have a feature called Ad Swap, which in concept is innovative and compelling.    According to Hulu, Ad Swap “puts complete control in the hands of the user by enabling them to instantly swap out of an ad they are watching for one that is more relevant.”  In other words, they are giving the viewer control over the messaging that “hits them” by giving them the opportunity to choose it.

Sounds good, right?  If you’re forced to see an ad in order to view content, why not choose something you like?  You’d have to think that most people would take that offer.  But let’s look at the numbers, which shed some light on how well Hulu delivers on the promise.  Since its launch in October 2011 over 9 million ad substitutions have occurred on Hulu Ad Swap, according to MediaPost.  That figure seems significant but it’s almost nothing when compared to the massive number of ads shown on Hulu.  This week Forbes reported that in March 2012 alone 1.7 billion ads were shown on Hulu.  That’s 1.7 billion ads in one month.  Seven months have passed since Ad Swap launched.  So assuming Hulu averaged a billion ads a month during that time (and more in March), that would equal 7.7 billion total ads (6 months at 1 billion each + 1.7 billion in March).  It’s probably more.  But during that time only 9 million ad substitutions have taken place.  That’s a substitution rate of .12%.  

Do you really believe that 99.9% of the time Hulu viewers decided not to choose a more relevant ad?  Do people really want to see a bad one?  It seems that either Hulu is just giving lip service to “customer choice” or doing a terrible job of promoting their own feature designed to provide that choice.  And that’s the point of my post called Hulu’s choice.  If you’re going to ask for audience feedback, then do it well and act on it in ways that really engage your audience.

Besides this, I have no beef with Hulu.  Frankly I enjoy their service.  But when a company goes public with a new feature and then brags about its usage, they open themselves up to scrutiny.  And in this case, that scrutiny seems fair.

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