Skip to main content

Hopkins: Hulu’s Ad-Free Option Expands Sub Pool

Hulu’s ad-free subscription offering is off to a good start, said CEO Mike Hopkins, while the online programming platform’s ad strategy is rapidly getting more relevant to users. Hopkins, speaking at the IAB MIXX advertising conference in New York, shared that Hulu data showed that a “big chunk” of potential users would not subscribe to Hulu due to its ad support, while another segment cite the ads as a reason why they cancel their subscriptions.

And therefore, the ad-free model, at $12 a month, was hatched earlier this month. “So far, so good,” said Hopkins, who is game to compete with the no-ads model at Netflix.

He acknowledged that the no-ad subs are a small group, and said the digital company has taken big strides in deploying programmatic technology to make spots more relevant to the user. “They like advertising if it’s the right advertising at the right time,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins shared the stage with Seth Meyers, host of Late Night With Seth Meyers on NBC, and creator of Hulu series The Awesomes (along with Mike Shoemaker), as the pair was interviewed by Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau). Meyers said he is frustrated with people who say the commercials are the worst part of the TV experience. “That’s like saying your least favorite part of the supermarket is the checkout line,” he said to a loud ovation.

Meyers had traditional network interest in The Awesomes, and shed light on why he chose Hulu. “They had a lot of passion for the idea, and a lot of patience for the idea,” he said. “The combination of patience and passion was what we were drawn to.”

While traditional networks wished to shape the concept to align closer with their brands, Meyers said Hulu mostly gave the producers free reign. “All the notes we got were about making the show better,” he said.

Hulu’s ongoing goals, said Hopkins, are to personalize the product for users, add more new programming, and add more films; a late summer deal with Epix brings films from Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount starting Oct. 1. Netflix gets the credit for its big-data approach to pairing users with content, but Hopkins said Hulu is savvy on that front too. “We cull that data aggressively to see what we should be making and buying,” he said.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.