Today I'm reporting from the Piper Jaffray Global Internet Summit in Laguna Beach, California. While attendees have been acknowledging the economic downturn and the ad market decline, the focus has been on the future. One big topic; online like video, with Hulu.comCEO Jason Kilar giving the opening keynote address.
I sat down with Kilar for an exclusive interview, looking at the state of his business a year after the website's soft, beta launch. When NBC Universal (CNBC's parent) and News Corp paired up to create this online ad-supported video site people were very skeptical. Folks at Google and its YouTube site mocked this partnership, calling it "Clown Co." Hulu has certainly proved them all wrong and is now a, if not *the* leader for ad supported online TV shows.
In September Hulu had 12 million unique users and streamed some 145 million shows according to Comscore. The company has over 100 content partners and 100 advertisers. Kilar says interest in election-related footage has been huge, which bodes quite well for October numbers.
Hulu is the seventh largest site when it comes to total video streams, but unlike YouTube, Hulu is focused exclusively on professionally created TV shows and movies and distributing them to consumers with the ease and accessibility of channel surfing on your TV. And now YouTube is moving more in Hulu's direction: it just announced its streaming more full-length TV shows and movies and it's even replicating Hulu's "turn the lights off" feature that allows you to turn the background of the video screen to black.
Kilar tells me that this is just the beginning, in terms of how many viewers the company can get, and how many more content partners they can sign on. And Hulu isn't only about getting users to its own site, it also distributes through MSN, Yahoo, AOL, MySpace and Facebook. And with just a few 30 second commercials per half-hour show that consumers don't seem to mind, and by many measures Hulu could get away with more commercials per show. I'm curious to see when some of the last media companies that haven't signed on (like Disneyand ABC) decide its best to make their content available in as many places as possible, and Hulu is a safe and attractive option.
A notable moment: at the end of a panel on Digital Medià the moderator took a poll of the room, asking if anyone thought Yahoo would be an independent company in 12 months. Not a single person raised a hand. Looks like the consensus is that Yahoo is on its way to being snapped up.
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