Monday, December 01, 2008

Hulu Users Prefer Longer Ads

Go figure.

And all this time the new media experts were telling us that we had to make commercials shorter. And now this. A new study from Hulu showing that 88% of viewers would actually prefer longer commercials. And, by longer, we mean two-minutes in length.

What’s the catch?

Well, like any piece of research, one has to examine what people were actually choosing between. The choice Hulu is now giving viewers is to choose between one two-minute commercial at the front of their program with no other interruptions. Or, four 30-second commercials interrupting their 22-minute program four times throughout the course of the program.

The winner, according to Hulu, is that longer is better. And that’s certainly one way to interpret the results. But there’s also another way to look at it. What viewers are really saying is that they would rather have no interruptions versus interruptions.

After all, both options require viewers to sit through two minutes of advertising. It’s just that the intrusive option seems so much more irritating that the other.

Obviously, Hulu doesn’t give viewers the option of one 30-second commercial versus one two-minute commercial at the beginning. That would be a more accurate test to see is longer was truly preferred.

The way I see it, what Hulu is really testing is how many interruptions are too many.

Our philosophy has always been that it’s not so much the advertising that viewers are trying to avoid, as it is the constant interruptions to the program that they’re watching. And, if in fact, we could find a way to distribute advertising that didn’t interrupt what people were watching, people might actually choose to watch the advertising. At least enough to support a viable business model.

Up to now, we didn’t have any research to back us up. And while the Hulu research isn’t the end all and be all, it is certainly directional in its findings.

Having tried Hulu myself, I too prefer the two-minute option at the front. Do I watch the commercial? Of course not. But I have found that two-minutes is just about the right amount of time to go and check my email before the program starts.

Thirty-seconds, in fact, would be way too short.

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