Hulu Struts Into The Upfront

An aura of confidence was in the air at Hulu’s upfront presentation for advertisers Wednesday morning.

The streaming video service had plenty to brag about. It announced that it now had more than 20 million paying subscribers, cementing its place behind Netflix and Amazon in that category. The number of subscribers to its ad-free product increased 40% year-over-year, while viewing hours were up 60%. And it now has more than 75,000 episodes of TV on its platform -- reportedly more than twice that of any other streamer, including Netflix.

“In the next two weeks, no one is going to stand up here with a growth story like ours," noted Hulu’s head of ad sales Peter Naylor. "I say that with a lot of confidence, and here’s why: In the last year, tens of thousands of gross ratings points have just disappeared from the TV ecosystem, and I think we all know they are not coming back.”

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In fact, Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings will become the new currency for the service, and Hulu will add a suite of sales effectiveness tools for the auto, CPG and retail categories.

“As a leader in OTT, it is important for us to prove that we are reaching all of your target audience -- in other words, that we are accounting for every single viewer,” Naylor said.

The company filled the Theater at Madison Square Garden, which was renamed the Hulu Theater just a few months ago, and brought out some of its most well-known talent to introduce new and returning programs.

Hot off an Emmy win and a Peabody Award, “The Handmaid's Tale” was picked up for a third season. At the event, stars Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley were flanked on stage by dozens of handmaids in their distinctive red dresses and white bonnets.

Meanwhile, comedian and writer Mindy Kaling ended the show by announcing she would be adapting the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as a Hulu miniseries.

Also coming: a new show, “Ramy,” from comedian Ramy Youssef, which will explore in a comedic fashion what being a Muslim millennial in America means for him.

Per a new deal with Hollywood horror mega-producer Jason Blum, a monthly horror event series called “Into The Dark” will feature a standalone installment built around a holiday, with the first segment tied to Halloween.

The company also announced a new deal to become the home of kids and family content from Dreamworks Animation, and picked up exclusive SVOD rights to the ABC drama “The Good Doctor.”

And Hulu rolled out new advertising opportunities, including dynamically inserted ads into its live TV product (starting with cable channels, with other channels rolling out over time), and ad-supported downloadable content.

“To get where we want to go, we are investing in more -- more exclusive content, more investments in technology and ad platforms, and more innovation within our user experience,” said CEO Randy Freer.

Whether those investments can keep the company’s growth going is a story worth following.

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