Of the three major streaming services — Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu — Hulu is the only one to play commercials like a traditional television station. That may be about to change. Last week, Hulu took a swipe at Netflix by lowering its monthly subscription rates the same week Netflix raised its own. This week it will further streamline its user experience, at least on a trial basis, by replacing commercials with static ads that will pop up when a viewer pauses whatever they are watching.
Dubbed “Pause Ads,” the company is beginning the rollout with two companies: Coca-Cola and Charmin (which is owned by Procter & Gamble). To start, the pause ads will only play during original Hulu content.
“While TV viewing behavior has changed, TV advertising really has not. We have largely been watching the same commercial breaks from the second that TV advertising began,” Jeremy Helfand, vice president and head of advertising platforms for Hulu, told Variety. “There’s a real opportunity to change that.”
Charmin brand director Janette Yauch was optimistic about the unique opportunity to target consumers during a crucial period. “When someone pauses their program, it’s presumably because they are ‘going’ – it’s an extremely relevant place for our brand,” she said.
According to Hulu, the ads will be static, deliver only a short message and a small image, and appear on a translucent backing so that the programming is still visible.
Hulu has a three-tired pricing plan, with viewers having the option to pay more in order to skip ads. Netflix currently does not advertise at all, while Amazon utilizes banner ads on selection screens and has occasionally run commercials during highly-trafficked live events such as “Thursday Night Football.” Both Netflix and Amazon have allowed product placement in their original content.
Comcast, 21st Century Fox, Disney and AT&T are investors in Hulu.