Hulu's Commercial-Free Prime Time: I don't think I want to watch

If you’ve gone on Hulu this morning, you’ll have noticed the giant countdown clock for its "Commercial-Free Prime Time" this evening from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. ET. Aside from the fact that the "commercial-free" prime time is brought to you by McDonald’s (how’s that gonna work? the player window skinned in a giant Big Mac wrapper?), it also begs the question: Is Hulu trying to coax me into a box? Part of the reason I go to Hulu is because I like watching my favorite shows whenever the mood strikes. If I have a free half-hour on Saturday at noon, and I feel like watching 30 Rock, I watch 30 Rock. And for this total flexibility, I’ll gladly look at a quick commercial to get to the next segment. Really, it’s not a big deal. So why is Hulu pushing an old-school concept of "prime time" when their whole reason for being is whenever-time? Tonight’s experiment seems a bet that people hate commercials more than they desire flexibility. I just don’t buy it.

Check out the 30 Rock episode below (wait until 7 p.m. or you’ve totally wasted 8 seconds on an ad), and then let us know: Are commercials really so stifling to your life that you’ll be more likely to go to Hulu for this commercial-free thing? Is this Hulu making a play for regular TV viewers? Or for EW.com blog posts?


Comments (16 total) Add your comment
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  • KateW

    I use Hulu so I can watch stuff when I want to watch it. I don’t care about the commercials. Plus, I’m not home for Prime Time viewing anyway.

  • Rebecca

    I watch hulu.com, because I watch when I want to watch, not when I have to at a specific time when I may have other stuff going on or to do. And I don’t care about one 30 second commercial between each segment of the show.

  • Jrtr

    If I was home for primetime I would watch things on my TV. Because I am not is why I am so glad to have Hulu, where I can catch up on my favorite shows whenever I want.

  • Julia

    The commercials on hulu don’t really bother me. They’re often witty and smart. I actually watch them more than I might on tv.

  • Ellen

    Well, I think that one (usually not too cringeworthily dreadful) ad is still a lot better then the endless breaks you get on TV, but I’m guessing Hulu are still struggling against unlicensed streaming sites that include no advertising at all. I’m guessing their major issue is that people are creatures of habit and once they’ve got used to going to a particular site it takes some sort of gimmick to tear them away from it. But I will admit that this particular gimmick does seem a little out of touch…I wonder if it would be better to have people sign up to be able to watch a certain number of shows commercial free each week, at their own convenience.

  • Kim from Texas

    It has always fascinated me that Hulu has so little commercial time. Broadcast television has something like 20 minutes of commercials for a program. Do Internet commercials pay more than broadcast commercials? (unlikely) Does it cost less per viewer to stream than broadcast? (unlikely) It would seem that like newspapers and magazines, broadcast television is a dying breed.

  • junior

    Sign me up for this! I actually normally watch shows on Hulu during primetime anyway (when a show I like finishes but I need to kill 30 mins until the next show I like comes on, it’s perfect). And Friday is double perfect because I watched “Grey’s” instead of “Parks & Rec” and “30 Rock” so now I can watch after work with no commercials!
    It’s a non-issue. It’s not like they’re not gonna show the show with ads outside of this time.

  • Marisa

    Frankly, I could care less about Hulu’s commercials because they come at the very beginning of the show/episode and that’s it. ABC, however, continually shows commercials on its “free player” and it’s pretty annoying when you hear the same darn Applebee’s commercial every 8 minutes or so.

  • Sara

    Kim, the deal with Hulu’s commercials is that you can’t fast-forward through them (at least, not that I’ve found). With regular TV, it’s becoming more prevalent to record it and fast forward through the commercials. It’s not inconceivable that Hulu could get more for their commercials by guaranteeing that they’d be shown.

  • elo

    I don’t really care about watching a commercial if it’s only 30 seconds..i don’t usually watch anyway. i go wash a cup or something. Hulu’s Primetime thing might just get them more attention and encourage new users to visit their site, though. (ex. it at least got them some free publicity through this EW post.)
    John Tantillo, a branding expert, publishes a weekly brand winner/loser post on his marketing blog: http://blog.marketingdoctor.tv He writes that Hulu’s success highlights the importance of a relevant environment to successful marketing (read: targeted marketing) on the web.
    Full post on Hulu: http://blog.marketingdoctor.tv/2009/05/04/john-tantillos-brand-winner-and-loser-hulu-and-newspapers-again.aspx

  • elo

    I don’t really care about watching a commercial if it’s only 30 seconds..i don’t usually watch anyway. i go wash a cup or something. Hulu’s Primetime thing might just get them more attention and encourage new users to visit their site, though. (ex. it at least got them some free publicity through this EW post.)
    John Tantillo, a branding expert, publishes a weekly brand winner/loser post on his marketing blog: http://blog.marketingdoctor.tv He writes that Hulu’s success highlights the importance of a relevant environment to successful marketing (read: targeted marketing) on the web.
    Full post on Hulu: http://blog.marketingdoctor.tv/2009/05/04/john-tantillos-brand-winner-and-loser-hulu-and-newspapers-again.aspx

  • ciel

    30 Rock Bloopers, for those who missed it!

    http://hahaha-havealaugh.blogspot.com/

  • Melinda65

    I really don’t understand why this deserved a blog post. It’s a gimmick that Hulu is trying, and for those who will be watching shows/movies on Hulu tonight, they get the added benefit of no commercials. It’s not a very *good* gimmick, as I agree, Hulu’s commercials are fairly non-obtrusive and low on the annoying scale*, but it’s not some insidious plot to take away flexibility from viewers.
    *Unlike those on ABC’s viewer–back when I could get it to work, that is–which are annoying, even if only for the fact that I usually got the same one every time.

  • Mad Stratter

    “(how’s that gonna work? the player window skinned in a giant Big Mac wrapper?)”
    Close. If you view it in a window (instead of full screen), then instead of the typical grey background, it’s a disgusting McCafe-colored-brown outline with a little iced McLatte in the corner in place of the McHulu logo.

  • Calinks

    I don’t see the big deal. I don’t die during hulu ads but I like the fact that the ads were taken away today. Sometimes I get the option to watch one ad at the beginning that only happens to me about once every 10 shows. There are a couple of shows I watch with a friend over the phone.
    Synching up after every commercial is a bit annoying, today would be a great day to watch a couple of episodes with my friend because we wouldn’t have to worry about synchronizing after every ad. Skipping the Hulu ads in general saves you about 3-5 minutes anyway so its always a plus for me.

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