The oddly-named site represents the two media companies' quest to capture some of the consumer attention that has gone to other video-sharing sites, most notably Google's YouTube. Hulu features clips and full-length episodes of well-known programs including "House" and "Chuck," as well as some movies. NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker has described Hulu as a potential lure for advertisers who like online video, but are more comfortable with professionally produced content as opposed to the grainy, edgy and wacky material that makes it to YouTube and other sites of its kind.
Recent and classic shows
A number of marketers have already expressed interest in Hulu and have begun to work with the site. Among those who joined for Hulu's beta test -- which allowed users from media executives to journalists try out the site -- are Cisco Systems, Intel Corp., Unilever, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota.
Among the video selections are clips of NBC's "Saturday Night Live"; full episodes of series long off the air such as "Lou Grant" and "Hill Street Blues," and long-running series such as "The Simpsons" and "Law & Order." The site has also been used as a way to seed new shows such as Fox's "New Amsterdam" and NBC's "Lipstick Jungle." Beyond programs from the broadcast networks NBC and Fox, Hulu videos also include programs from Bravo, CNBC, E!, Fox News, Fox Sports, FX, Oxygen, National Geographic Channel, SciFi, Sundance Channel, TV Guide, and USA Network. Movie studios 20th Century Fox and Universal have full length movies on the site.
Users can embed clips in websites or e-mail them to friends. Ads are meant to travel with the content.
Quarter of the ads
Executives have been careful not to make the ads that accompany the videos overly intrusive. Initial ad executions included pairing traditional 30-second ads with long-form video, such as an airing of the NBC comedy "The Office" -- but with only 25% of the ads one might have to sit through while watching TV. When it comes to short-form video, Hulu will allow a 10- to 15-second video overlay, which viewers could click if they want to interact further with the advertiser.
Other concepts that have been tested include asking users to select the type of ad they'd like to see. In some videos seen in the beta test, little advertiser logos and icons, also known as "bugs," have appeared in one of the bottom corners of the screen, and can be clicked on in order to learn more information.
Hulu goes live just as advertisers and TV networks are beginning to consider the annual upfront market, when marketers commit more than $9 billion to network-TV's fall primetime schedule. Thanks to the recently-ended writers' strike, networks such as Fox and NBC will have less to offer in the way of new shows come September. Having Hulu in their arsenal might give the site's parent companies added ad inventory and additional reach among consumers who are increasingly flocking to digital venues for news, entertainment and information.