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Hulu: TV Network Brands Still Matter in the World of Online Video

By Troy Dreier

“Everything is merging together,” said Tim Connolly, senior vice president and head of distribution and partnerships for Hulu. Connolly spoke today at the New York Media Festival on the future of television.

“Online video used to be disparaged a little bit,” Connolly said. Hulu puts broadcast content online, and sees itself as an equal member of the television ecosystem. “We’re TV in the same way that a cable or a broadcast network is TV.”

While Hulu has built its reputation on premium content, it now recognizes that non-professional producers—whether from YouTube or other sites—are creating quality video that attracts an audience. That’s why it recently took its first step in working with the indie video world, commissioning Freddie Wong (creator of Video Game High School) to make virtual reality content, which is also a new area for Hulu.

Hulu takes the unusual step of reinforcing the brands of the companies it partners with. When it began running all 180 episodes of Seinfeld in June, it cross-promoted the show on TBS. Rather than cannibalizing TBS’s ratings, Connolly thinks Hulu has added to them. Networks like AMC and FX have created an identity with viewers with creative and hard-hitting comedies and dramas, and Hulu reinforces those brands to help viewers identify content they might like.

“They’ve really done a great job of creating an ethos around their brand,” Connolly said. “We think consumers do like having sorting mechanisms.”

Connolly also addressed the challenges networks face in measuring ratings from online viewings. On-demand viewing is becoming a material part of a show’s success, he noted. While the networks Hulu works with would like to get C3 ratings from Hulu, that would require Nielsen and ComScore to create SDKs for all of Hulu’s platforms, and the measurement companies are having a hard time keeping up with the evolution of devices.

Thanda Belker, executive vice president, pay television, U.S. television, Sony Pictures Television, and Tim Connolly, senior vice president, head of distribution and partnerships, Hulu.

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