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Does Hulu Have Too Many Ads?

Hulu ads

Last month Hulu delivered over 1.22 billion video ads to users, which is more than all the video ads seen on Google, AOL, and Microsoft video sites—combined. The streaming-TV service also boasted a higher ad frequency than its online competitors, with the average viewer consuming 217.1 minutes of video per month and watching 47.1 ads, reports comScore.

According to Tubefilter, that means Hulu shows an ad every 4 minutes and 37 seconds, an increase of 15% since October. Is Hulu showing too many ads?

Compared with other digital services, Hulu is certainly showing more ads—but that's not necessarily a fair comparison. Hulu prides itself on high-quality content, which is paid for through advertisements (and helps support the costs of Hulu's premium Plus service). Many of the other sites tracked by comScore—YouTube, namely—offer mostly user-generated content, which costs nothing more than bandwidth to deliver.

And while an ad every 4 minutes may feel excessive in the digital realm, it's still far less frequent than traditional TV. Averages vary, but it's commonly understood that for every 30 minutes of programming, there will be 8 minutes of ads—a commercial break every 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Moreover, Hulu delivers less ads per break than traditional TV, with one or two commercials shown each intermission, which can generally range from 30 to 60 seconds.

According to Hulu, the company never delivers more than 50% of the ads shown on traditional TV, and more often than not, the ad load is closer to 25% of what you'd see on television.

Perhaps that's why Hulu has taken so many viewers away from traditional television, while still managing to pull in $260 million in revenue in 2010.

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  • Keith Tyler

    Well it's four years later, and I've sat through four breaks of four commercials apiece, most of which longer than 60 seconds (some as long as 120).

    Eventually Hulu will be the Internet's premier subscription-based provider of premium ads. That's all it'll be, one hour of ads, which you pay for.

  • Paul

    I was offered a 2-week trial for Hulu Plus. So far, it is annoying as Hell to try to watch and the search functions are extremely lacking. I was assuming that the numerous ads and interruptions were because of the trial. If they plan to continue once I start paying, then I will be planning to shut this off immediately.

  • Bif McSeriousCat

    Hulu now has MORE ads than TV. I, as well as scores of people that tried and did not continue Hulu+ trials, have timed it. This "article" which seems much more like a paid promotion for Hulu is more than 2 years old and it has only gotten worse. 1 Episode of South Park, 5 ads before, 4 ads during, another 5 ads near the end. That's more than 30 minutes, actually almost 32 minutes, so you are expected to pay $8/mth for more commercials than cable TV. Hulu has become a joke and studios wonder why people simply torrent their products...

  • iueras

    And somehow Netflix manages to do what Hulu does, but better, without commercials, and charges a single monthly fee to do it. The fact is, News Corp and Disney don't WANT people watching Hulu. That would take viewership away from the commercial-laden TV channels -- along with the entire network of people paying them for the rights to broadcast their content, from the local OTA stations up to the big aggregators and satellite networks. And if people DO watch Hulu, then by golly they are getting these ads shoved RIGHT down their throats! I just tried to watch a 22 minute anime episode that had 1:30 of commercials in the first 1:30 of the show, then another 4:30 of commercials crammed into the next 18 minutes of show (because all the ads of course are placed before the end credits). That's 6 minutes of commercials in 19.5 minutes of show (not counting end credits). 31% commercials. That's at least on par with, if not worse than, television.

    The Netflix model works, Netflix itself is proof of that, and Amazon Prime streaming video is proof that it works twice. Amazon is actually a little cheaper than Netflix on a month to month basis, and has, at this time, a better selection of TV shows IMO. So that's 2 companies that don't even own the content they are streaming (an advantage that rests solely with Hulu at this time) and are still able to make lots of money at it, even after licensing fees paid to, in some cases, the very 2 companies that own Hulu. It seems like Disney and News Corp should be able to make money at the same model as well.

    So, either they are able to make money with a Netflix model and are choosing not to, or are not able to monetize it in a non-annoying way and are desperately trying to scrape what cash they can back out of the huge investment that was Hulu before the board dumps it.

    Either way, no good for the consumer of Hulu. It really just shows how stuck in the old way of monetizing TV and movies the media empires really are. They could charge us directly for the viewership of streaming video, but for some reason would rather get paid by advertisers instead. Cut out the middleman already!

  • guest

    I cancelled my plus subscription in protest. The internet used to be cool. now its just another tool for corporate america to exploit the middle class.

  • David A Sawyer

    Yes they do but my main concern is that their new layout sucks. It's harder to search for shows by year or decade. Anyway, if you want to see way too many commercials try going to they go to commercial break every 2 minutes into a show and have like 5 commercials in each break. Or the videos don't load half the time even after you've been forced to watch commercials. The INTERNET has gotten worse than old fashioned TV used to be. The reason people turned to the internet was to get away from commercials. But we do understand that commercials are necessary. However now it seems like there are MORE commercials on the internet than on TV, plus you have to deal with all the flash banner ads, pop up ads, and other ads all over the screen. That and the fact a lot of these sites have terrible layouts and are not that functional have turned the internet into one big buzz kill suckfest!

  • Lerch124

    in a 30 min. tv show I counted 11 ads. that was the precursor ad then 3 on the first brake, 4 mid show, and 3 at the third brake. I thought they said limited commercial interruptions. 

  • Bking5

    But.. I am paying for the service.  Since when do I have to pay to watch AND get ads.  Thats an unacceptable double dip. 

  • crnels70

    It's not a double dip. You are paying for the movies as well as the ability to watch entire seasons and series of shows. Your not gonna get that with regular TV, or you will have to purchase DVD's or pay to download them. 

  • Scooter Mullino

    Too many ads?? HULU PLUS is an adverting company that throws in an occasional tv show clip every 4 minutes. Probably the worst experience in a "pay for" model I have ever had. I did not even finish my FREE subscription. Ads, ads, ads..nothing but ads. I would pay triple for Netflix after that experience

  • Sleeping Hedgehog

    Fully agree. I watched one show and stopes after the third block of ads in the first fifteen minutes! I'll stick with Netflix and pay for new material via iTunes when need be. Or watch current episodes ad free off the various network sites.

  • Peperino

    I never watch ads in hulu.
    One of the tricks I found out in the beginning was to preload and play the whole video while I was doing something else.
    Then I came back and watch it from the beginning, and tada, no Ads.

    After a while it became cumbersome when I wanted it to watch right away, and AdBlocker wasn't blocking them all... or if they were blocking them, I had to wait X minutes anyway staring at a black screen saying that the Ad wasn't loaded asking me to disable the Ad Blocker -.-;;

    Then I found it: Ad-Muncher, check it out here go to for a free trial.
    You will forget that Hulu ever had ads, it works seamlessly, it doesn't block it SKIPS! That's the beauty of it.

    This is my way of saying Up Yours Hulu!

  • Frank CarrilloJr

    I have been a user of Hulu for a long time; the ads are fine and the movies are great. If I want to watch a movie without ads, I will go out and rent one. For the consideration of just watching a movie for free; I am greatful that Hulu was ever developed. When and ever that Hulu will have to be paid for; I will submit my cost and continue to use it.

  • Christian Trygstad

    Hulu does not have too many ads in my opinion. I understand how the bills get paid. What I don't understand is why more shows aren't available online. There are shows I would love to catch, but sometimes I don't have time to sit on the couch from time a to time b on proscribed date to watch. I need to be able to watch when I can. If you aren't offering your content, on-demand, free and ad-supported, you are encouraging people to pirate your content. The pirated copy won't have commercials that support your content either.

  • StPete

    re: Does HULU have too many ads?

    NO. Not since I'm watching shows on their site for free. And if the ads do bother me, I can pay Hulu a paltry 7.99/month and watch as many shows as I want, when I want, and never see an ad.

  • David H

    BillB, that's incorrect. Hulu Plus has ads. In a 22-minute sitcom, as a Hulu Plus subscriber, I was forced to watch six ads, each about 30 seconds long. What Hulu Plus offers is the ability to play more episodes on devices other than a computer.