Hulu Just Made A Major Ad-Related Change

Charles and Oliver at party in Only Murders in the Building
(Image credit: Hulu)

As one of the earliest adopters of ad-based streaming plans, with Netflix having yet to introduce its multi-tier plan, Hulu has adjusted its advertising approach over the years, taking strides to deliver promos that are both more specific to the viewers, and also specific to the programming being viewed. But the company found itself in quite a pickle after its execs initially claimed the service would not be housing political issue ads regarding hot button topics such as abortion and gun reform. Following a backlash from Democrat-fronted committees whose ad purchase requests were rejected, Hulu is apparently now backing down from its initial stance, and will indeed begin streaming political ads to subscribers as midterm election campaigns heat up.

Hulu’s parent company Disney confirmed on Wednesday to Axios that it has reversed that decision — effective immediately — and streamers should expect to see not only political issue spots about debate-mongering subject matter, but also ads for specific candidates. So long as the ads are non-offensive and still adhere to the House of Mouse’s distinct standards, that is. 

In fact, while Disney has given a blanketed thumbs up to politically minded advertising going forward, don’t expect the company to allow a free-for-all in that respect. One stipulation embedded in the decision is that Disney/Hulu execs still have the right to request certain edits to ads and other marketing materials, so that the details pass muster with its standards and practices. (In that respect, probably don’t count on seeing ads attacking Disney or its theme parks over the Florida governor’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill.) 

What’s more, that policy change isn’t just limited to Hulu, as Disney will also be allowing political ads to run on ESPN+. That part is slightly less surprising, given that’s how things have worked for the sports-minded cable network on linear TV.

Here’s how a Disney spokesperson laid things out in a statement:

After a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months, Disney is now aligning Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the Company’s general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+. Hulu will now accept candidate and issue advertisements covering a wide spectrum of policy positions, but reserves the right to request edits or alternative creative, in alignment with industry standards.

Hulu initially defended its ad stance by bringing up the company’s policy against running controversial content, which ties back to the streaming service and other digital platforms not having to answer to the Communications Act founded in 1934. That law mandates that broadcast TV networks give equal attention and advertising access to all political parties. (Something that the politically minded SNL has had to answer to in order to stay unbiased with its content, and it’s not alone.) But calls of “censorship” and other forms of pressure from political groups clearly had an impact behind the scenes.

With this move, Hulu is now on the same page as Disney’s cable networks, though it’s unclear how things will be handled now once Disney+ brings its commercial-infused plan into the mix. The corporation has previously claimed it wouldn’t be allowing alcohol or political ads on that streaming service, and while that still makes sense given D+’s generally younger demographic, it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out once the ad-based plan rolls out. 

Check out all the best shows that fans can watch with a Hulu subscription ahead of the ad changes, and head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what’s hitting primetime and beyond in the coming months.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.