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Online streaming service Hulu has always been a convenient option for TV fans to catch up on favorite shows. Ads have been a part of the Hulu watching experience from the beginning, and most viewers haven’t minded sitting through commercials a few times per episode. Even the majority of subscribers who pay for access to Hulu’s more exclusive features haven’t been too upset. As it happens, however, a small but vocal minority has been raising a stink on social media about ads. In response, Hulu had added an ad-free subscription option.
Hulu Chief Executive Mike Hopkins was frank as he explained the thought process behind Hulu’s new ad-free option in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:
There are two kinds of consumers. Ad acceptors and ad avoiders. Ad avoiders are a smaller but more vocal group.
On one level, it may sound silly that a platform as big as Hulu would cave to pressures from bitter subscribers and their smartphones, but a vocal minority can take a major toll on the positive marketing of the service. After all, Twitter may only allow for 140 characters per tweet, but that still leaves room for plenty of exclamation points after the supply of obscenities has been exhausted.
Hopkins does not seem overly concerned about whether or not this new ad-free service will be popular with consumers, which is probably a good thing. As appealing as the prospect of going on a marathon of shows on Hulu without watching the same cell phone or car insurance commercial over and over again may be, the $11.99 per month price for the ad-free service is a huge bump from the $7.99 price for the option with ads.
Of course, paying anything at all for Hulu content is a change from the early days of the platform. The free content is now considered a sampling service. Still, there’s no denying that Hulu has been putting the increased revenue to good use. Hulu has joined Netflix and Amazon Prime as major streaming services producing original content for subscribers and has been known to pick up series cancelled by networks to be continued online. Mindy Kaling’s sitcom The Mindy Project was rescued from its Fox cancellation thanks to Hulu data that showed the series was popular enough among viewers to be a boon for the site.
The rescue of Mindy has been a success for the platform and for the show, and it will come as no surprise if Hulu continues its trend of rescuing cancelled shows. There’s no avoiding the fact that such rescues would be impossible without a combination of advertising and subscription fees, and Mike Hopkins is confident that the majority of Hulu subscribers who do not take to Twitter in fury every time that they see the same insurance commercial will stick around and support future content.