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In brief: While some video streaming services offer an ad-free viewing experience out-of-the-box, others, like Hulu, will display ads even on paid plans. However, if you use Hulu regularly, the advertising system has just seen a few changes that might affect you for the better. In an announcement today, Hulu states that it has launched a "new ad experience" designed to connect brands with "binge watchers."
Hulu defines a binge viewing session as one where the user watches three or more episodes of a specific series in a row.
By using the power of machine learning, Hulu's new ad experience will reward binge viewers with ad-free show episodes. Prior to the ad-free episode rolling, users will see a brief, "personalized" clip from on of three brands: Kellog's, Maker's Mark, or Georgia-Pacific. Alternatively, viewers may simply be shown a personalized "offer."
It's unclear at what intervals these offers or ad-free episodes will be available, but it's possible that they will only show up once per binge viewing session. We're reaching out to Hulu for confirmation.
The messaging of these promotional clips is key to the new ad experience. Hulu is aiming to tie the ads into the viewing experience more closely, as opposed to simply showing a generic clip provided by a sponsor. For example, after an episode ends, you may see a Cheez-It ad that says "Some people say it's distracting to eat and watch TV, but they aren't here, so snack away." After the ad, you may see an in-context prompt to watch another episode.
In an age of ad blockers and ad-free viewing plans, brands and content providers are always looking for ways to adapt to the ever-changing habits of consumers. This latest tweak to Hulu's advertising system appears to accomplish that to a degree, while also providing at least some amount of value to users.
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