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Hulu Highlights Focus Areas for the Coming Year: Streaming Media East 2019

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"We're all part now of what's really that next revolution in television, and it's pretty exciting," said Dan Phillips, CTO for Hulu, kicking off Streaming Media East 2019.

Hulu has seen impressive growth in the past year, growing from 20 million to 28 million subscribers. It's seen a 75% year-over-year increase in total viewing, and took $1.5 billion in ad revenue in the last year. The company is, Philllips proudly declared, the fastest growing SVOD in the U.S.

The challenge now is to plan for 40 million, 50 million, and even 60 million subscribers, Phillps said. To do that, Hulu is focusing on three areas:

  1. Platform modernization: Hulu is still dealing with a nascent streaming infrastructure made up of an array of technology from a variety of vendors. That creates a challenge for reliability, but customers don't care about back-end challenges, Phillips said. To plan for the future, Hulu is architecting a system with a modular approach, where agility is key. It's designing a system with worst case scenarios in mind, where new additions are expected to go down but can be quickly rolled back when they do. Hulu is also building in redundancy at every step, working with multiple CDNs and creating multiple paths for the last mile.
  1. Improve the app experience: Viewers watch Hulu on a range of devices, and not all devices are created equally, Phillips noted. He's seeing an explosion of use in streaming sticks and connected TVs. Hulu wants to be on all the devices that matter, so it's re-architecting its platform to support a broad set. It's also focusing on the user interface. Its goal is to create an efficient design that provides easy access to the company's 85,000 title library. It's latest UI change, announced at its newfront presentation last week, is showing more titles on menu screens.
  1. Build out the ad experience: Most Hulu viewing is ad-supported, but the company strives to put the viewer experience first. Ad breaks should be consistent, relevant, and integrated, Phillips said. Viewers should be empowered to choose the ad experience they want. Hulu is leading with novel ad types geared to the streaming experience. It's been testing pause ads, and will soon introduce binge ads that recognize when a viewer is binging a show. Two-thirds of viewers find pause ads less intrusive, Phillips said.

With those as Hulu's goals for 2019, Phillips told Streaming Media East attendees what they can expect in the next year. The company will become more data-driven, and recently hired its first chief data officer. It will expand with AI and machine learning, creating more personalized experiences while always being conscious of user privacy. And it will create even more ad experiences tied to viewer behavior.

"Being viewer-first is what our industry and our customers demand," Phillips said. "It's what will drive Hulu forward into the future. The future of television is here and Hulu is leading the way."

Streaming Media East continues today and tomorrow in New York City.

Photo: Dan Phillips, CTO, Hulu

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