Hulu Goes Commercial Free, But Why?

Starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT Hulu will be going commercial free for eight hours. That is according to a note Hulu posted its official Facebook fan page.The question I have is why. Is it meant to encourage sampling for new viewers? Is it an attempt to drum up traffic on (what I imagine) is one of the slowest days of the week? Or do they simply have unsold inventory and are trying to burn some of it off in a Friday night block?

A spokesperson for Hulu had not responded as of writing, but there is an obvious clue if you visit Yes, the commercial free primetime is sponsored by McDonald’s McCafe coffee, which as Advertising Age noted earlier this week, is launching a massive promotional campaign. Considering Fridays are probably slow for Hulu, McDonalds could have made a big enough buy to offset revenue that would otherwise have been lost by not having the ads.

Hulu, a joint venture between News Corp., NBC and soon Disney-ABC, is easily one of the most user friendly video sites on the Web, with some of the highest quality shows and movies around. Going commercial free makes the user experience even better, but it isn’t a great business model.

User comments on the note were all positive, though there were a few gripes: “I like it…but on a Friday night? come on…how about on a night I’m likely to be home to enjoy it!” said one person. Another asked politely for more episodes of the BBC series Doctor Who.

So guys: if you are too cheap to take your significant other to see Star Trek tonight, you can bask in the loving glow of the laptop and watch The Office. Or Hell’s Kitchen. Or whatever. And I think McDonalds would appreciate it if you bought some McLattes and McNuggets for snacking.