Streaming TV in the Age of Physical Distancing

People are watching more TV.

It’s a well known fact by now that sweeping physical distancing orders have impacted consumer media behavior. With more time at home, individuals and families are turning to their televisions and devices to stay connected, to pass the time, to get critical information and for a much-needed emotional escape.

Social Distancing Assets Chart 1

According to Nielsen, overall television consumption is up, with larger increases in viewing through connected devices and in usage of game consoles, which encompasses both video viewing and actual gaming.

At Hulu, we are also seeing increases in both viewers and engagement. Our more than 30 million* subscribers are spending record amounts of time on our service, both with live TV and breaking news, and with thousands of episodes of their favorite comedies, dramas and movies. Given the massive consumer shift to streaming TV that’s occurred over the last couple years, Hulu has already experienced tremendous momentum on the heels of our product and content.

Compared to this time last year, viewing on Hulu is up 48%. And during this month, as more people turn to Hulu for both information and distraction, we continue to see week-over-week gains in engagement, across all devices.

What’s happening on Hulu?

So what exactly are people watching? Hulu is seeing growth in engagement across all genres, though viewers are certainly gravitating towards “comfort” TV shows like comedies. Other categories that saw the biggest jumps in engagement were movies and kids content. Some examples of titles that experienced big lifts include Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rick and Morty, Love Island UK, One Tree Hill, The Golden Girls, Dave, Teen Titans Go!, The Good Doctor, Grey’s Anatomy, The Handmaid’s Tale and Hulu’s newest Original, Little Fires Everywhere – showing that all genres are represented.

Shows on Hulu

Not surprisingly, we’re also seeing “binge” behavior starting to increase. At Hulu, we define a binge as a viewing session that includes 3+ episodes from a single series. We’ve already shared some enlightening insights from our data around this pervasive behavior:

Social Distancing Assets Chart 2

  • 65% of Hulu viewers binge watch a series in any given month.
  • 20% binge 4 shows or more. On average, it takes
  • 26 days for a viewer to complete a season, and about 27% of the time, binge sessions include episodes from more than one season.

We’re currently seeing more binge viewing occurring on Hulu, as sessions grew over 30% last week vs the beginning of March.

Hulu also offers a live TV service, where we’re seeing similar trends as have been reported on traditional linear service. For example, viewing of news content continues to increase. Last week, Hulu + Live TV viewers spent 54% more time watching news vs the beginning of March.

Social Distancing Assets Chart 3

What does this mean for brands?

According to a global study from Kantar about consumer attitudes and media habits, only 8% of respondents believe that brands should stop advertising altogether in today’s climate. In fact, Kantar warns that a six-month absence from TV advertising will result in an estimated 39% reduction in total brand communication awareness.

Social Distancing Assets Chart 4

For those that continue advertising, a clear majority of consumers expect advertising to make a positive contribution to society, including: talking about how the brand can be helpful in the new everyday life (77%); informing about their efforts to face the situation (75%); and offering a reassuring tone (70%). Two “don’ts” are exploiting the situation to promote the brand (75%) and using a humorous tone (40%).

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more information on Hulu viewers’ specific expectations for brand messaging during this time – how do they want to hear from the products and services? What tone and attributes would most resonate? How can a brand best navigate these unprecedented times? Stay tuned as we continue to tap into our consumer base and user data to provide insights and direction.


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  • No symbols such as registered marks, copyrights, etc.
  • If symbols are required, they will be presented in standard text such as" Brand (TM)".

Stress mark should be marked with [capitals] to indicate the primary stressed syllable, as in: news・pa・per [NOOZ-pey-per] in・for・ma・tion [in-fer-MEY-shuhn]

On living room, mobile, and tablet devices, the color gradient overlay is dynamic and will change based on the cover story art. It is not something we can control on our end.

If the tagline/date messaging doesn’t fit within the 11 syllables max, it can be included as text.

On living room, mobile, and tablet devices, the color gradient overlay is dynamic and will change based on the cover story art. It is not something we can control on our end.

Q: When is letterboxing allowed and not allowed?

A: When the native aspect ratio is 1.78:1 or 1.33:1 throughout the entire program, there should not be any letterboxing (black bars on top and bottom), nor should there be any pillarboxing (black bars on either side). We should should see an active picture take up the full frame. If the aspect ratio is wider than 1.78:1, such as 2.35:1, matting on the top and bottom is permissible. Additionally, if there is a creative choice to add matting or if there is a mix of native aspect ratios, this is usually waived, but please reach out to your Hulu representative to confirm.

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Q: Should the bitrate be constant if delivering ProRes codec?
A: No, since ProRes codec is built to be variable, this is waived.

Q: Can you accept bitrate higher than 30 Mbps?
A: Yes, we can accept bitrate beyond the recommended range for H.264 and ProRes. In the case of ProRes, bitrate will often exceed 30 Mbps due to its variable setting.

Q: What does native frame rate mean?

A: Native frame rate refers to the frame rate the source footage was shot. Whenever possible, we require all videos to be delivered in their native frame rate. This means that no frame rate conversion should be performed, which includes adding 3:2 pulldown for broadcast.

Q: Why do you ask for progressive?

A: The Hulu player, unlike traditional broadcast, does not play back interlace scan, so we require that all videos be delivered with their scan type set to progressive. If your video is natively interlaced, you must de-interlace it to progressive and you must employ a de-interlace filter that does not result in blending or ghosting artifacts. We recommend an auto-adaptive de-interlace if available.

Q: Why do you prefer PCM codec?

A: PCM codec is lossless audio quality, so whenever possible, please deliver PCM audio.

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