Hulu is sitting on one of the biggest advertising goldmines and they don’t even seem to understand what they have. Hulu Plus seems to be proof that they haven’t got a clue.
I majored in marketing in college but did not go into the field post-graduation. One of things I learned in my very basic, non-advanced (whatever that might be) courses was that the more specific your demographic viewership the more you can pay for each set of eyeballs. If you are trying to sell widgets you are going to pay more to Widgets Weekly than Time Magazine in terms of cost/reader. This is common sense and is certainly not rocket science. Each reader of Widget Weekly is far more likely to buy your new widget than the much more diverse readers of Time Magazine.
Without even requiring a user to register or login Hulu already knows a lot about you. Here’s a list of all the things they can tell about you:
- Approximate and sometimes exact physical location. Using features on some devices like iPhones and iPads they can even tell what direction you are facing.
- You are more than likely a gamer if you are coming from a PS3. Also, that you have a PS3. There are a lot of game advertisers out there.
- How bleeding edge you are. If you are accessing their services using an iPhone 3G as opposed to a 3GS or 4 then you probably are not on the bleeding/cutting edge.
This was just a short list off the top of my head but you can see there is a lot of information that can be determined by just initiating contact with Hulu/Hulu Plus. There is probably a lot more which a seasoned marketer could list. However, this is nothing. The fact is that they can make you register. They can require you to provide all sorts of information about yourself when registering but it also ties all of your viewing habits in. Now they can track all the shows you watch. That alone reveals a lot about you. They can see all of the viewing devices you own and begin to profile your willingness to spend and affinity for certain brands or product lines. If you stop videos halfway through watching them they can even determine that you either are a very busy person or have an unusually short attention span. What was I saying? Oh, yeah… they can tell a lot about you.
Again, this is nothing considering the power of the internet has on profiling people. You know how for a while there everybody was scared of cookies in-between worrying about Y2k? The legitimate worry was that sites would collect information spanning across multiple sites. Back then people were more scared that their passwords would be stolen or something but there was a lot of truth to the issues. Companies have honed this practice beyond what most anybody would have imagined using cookies among a plethora of other techniques. These people aren’t hackers either. These are people mining information to place ads on the pages you visit. Have you ever noticed how the same ads or type of ads seem to follow you from site to site? This is because they are connected to a global framework of advertising networks. They know where you’ve been and how long you’ve been there. Heck, they probably even know where you are going. There are even tools widely available that track and report (sometimes in realtime) the movement of your mouse around a web page. I’m sorry if I scared you but the point I’m trying to make is that it can be quite easy to find out ridiculous amounts of information about the viewers of a website.
Now, let’s circle on back to what I originally stated. You can sell advertising space for more when your demographic is targeted. The beauty of Hulu is that each ad can be customized to the individual viewer. Try that on TV. We’ve already established that they know a lot about you. We are talking about highly targeted commercials. This is the kind of targeting that would make the Nielson cry.
There is one more thing that makes Hulu commercials so much better than traditional broadcast ones: You can’t skip through them (I know there are hacks to bypass them but the vast majority of people aren’t going to hassle with that). This is the age of the DVR where everybody skips the commercials on their TV. Sure you can do other things on your computer when commercials come on but you still probably hear them. The iPad, iPhone and PS3 are an even better deal where you can’t even do anything else on the device. You MUST watch the commercials on these new outlets.
So, let’s examine the “Plus” model. You reduce your audience by requiring a $10 monthly fee. Perhaps it’s just me but If I had a wealth of desirable media (movies and TV shows), a way to prevent people from skipping commercials, and a ridiculous ability to customize for targeted advertising, I would probably want to get as many people using the service as possible. I’d even attempt to work out a deal with AT&T so that viewing my media and commercials didn’t count against the new 2GB limits. I mean after all I want people to watch my highly targeted ads.
I’m curious to know if people with real marketing experience and knowledge agree with me or if I slept through too many classes in school. Hey I still graduated with honors. That said, I was also fairly highly ranked in the FFA ladder on Warcraft III at that time so who knows how much I retained.