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Hulu Unveils Its 'Newfronts' Pitch

Scott Eelis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

This week Internet giants are going to Madison Avenue, to make the pitch for their online ads, with a series of what they're calling "Newfronts" ahead of the broadcast networks' "Upfront" ad presentations this week.

Their goal: convince advertisers their original shows, and ad targeting and measurement technology deserves a bigger share of their marketing dollars. Monday Microsoft and Yahoo unveiled their original shows and ad targeting technology.

Tuesday Hulu took the stage, against the backdrop of the fact that it's on the auction block for the second time in two years.

Hulu announced some new statistics, showing accelerating growth. In the first quarter its premium service, Hulu plus added 1 million additional subscribers, giving it 4 million subscribers total. And for the first time, in the quarter viewers streamed more than one billion videos. The company said it also set new records for revenue. Hulu wouldn't reveal exact figures, but noted revenue accelerated beyond the $695 million the company generated last year.

On Tuesday Hulu's showcased eight new original series, featuring A-listers including Eva Longoria, Seth Meyers, and Mario Batali. Hulu is also featuring two new seasons of the traditional soap operas "One Life To "Live," and "All My Children," which started their next all-digital phase Monday when they launched all new episodes, with the same cast, on the digital platform.

(Read More: The New Battle Over Original Digital Content)

Featuring these traditional TV stars—and brands—is designed to send advertisers the message that Hulu has the same kind of premium content—and viewer—as traditional TV. Hulu has used all its data about what, and how, people watch, to create its shows, looking to find a dedicated niche audience, the kind that appeals to advertisers.

Hulu won't say flat-out that it's competing for TV ad dollars—after all its owned by media giants NBC Universal, CNBC's parent, News Corp, and Disney. But it's certainly saying that its ads are just as easy to buy as TV spots—its working with Nielsen so ads can be purchased with the same "ratings point" metric. And it's giving a lot of evidence that its ads can be much better targeted—and reach consumers wherever they are.

Hulu's SVP of Advertising Jean-Paul Colaco said, "We can now target by geography, we can target by device...so instead of daytime or primetime, you can be on mobile, tablet, or a connected television. So we're pretty excited about that ability to 'hyper-target,' for advertisers to get the right ad to the right person at the right time."

In the era of commercial-skipping DVRs, companies like Hulu, along with the likes of Yahoo, and even the Wall Street Journal and Conde Nast, are trying to demonstrate the advantages of their online video spots. Advertisers already prefer the video ad format, rather than something like a banner ad. And with the pre-roll ad format, which virtually all of the Newfront presenters this week feature, it's almost impossible to skip a spot.

(Read More: The New Battle Over Original Digital Content)

Though its less of a concern with video ads than other Internet ads, which can be ignored, Hulu and others want to convince advertisers that the ad actually played on a screen and were really taken in by a person.

Hulu and Youtube are allowing users to skip ads, which means brands pay a premium if people watch the whole thing. Hulu also promotes its feature, which allows users to pick between ads, noting that it dramatically boosts viewer engagement with the marketing message.

Hulu's presentation may be speaking directly to Madison Avenue, but its potential buyers are also listening. The price tag Hulu will draw depends on two factors. First, there are its content deals with its parent companies, which could range widely in duration and exclusivity. But the part of its value that's far more fixed is its technology and exclusive content.

(Read More: Adobe to Tackle 'TV Everywhere' With Primetime)

The Hulu plus subscriber base, ad-targeting technology, and original shows are all a key part of Hulu's perceived value. Guggenheim Partners and Peter Chernin's Chernin Group are both interested in buying the streaming video company, and Hearst is a potential partner. Tuesday's presentation may not be for them, but they're certainly listening.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.