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.


Andy_69_C3100_HEP_9x15_648x1080px
Andy-Goldberg
ANDY GOLDBERG
SVP, Global Brand Planning & Content
American Express
The first ad I remember:
Fruit Loops with Toucan Sam
My favorite TV show of all time:
Impossible to name just one but Friday Night Lights is on the all-time list.
I’m here to:
Connect with others on the potential of streaming … how things are changing so rapidly and how brands can be at the forefront of amazing content.

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.

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.

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

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.

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: 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.

Alex_48_C3100_HEP_9x15_648x1080px
Alex-Lopez
ALEX LOPEZ
Head of Global Brand Communications & Narrative
Nike
The first ad I remember:
Mike & Spike (Air Jordan)
My favorite TV show of all time:
Sports, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, or anything else that starts with “S”.
I’m here to:
Get inspired, build some knowledge, and have some laughs along the way.

Q: Why do you prefer PCM codec?

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

Play Video

Q&A With
Gadi Amit

Founder, New Deal Design

Gadi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” - a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gadi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Gandi Amit

Found New Deal Design

Gandi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” -- a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gandi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Jonathan Miranda

Emerging Strategy Principal, Salesforce

Another expectation among younger generations seems to be personalization. How are you seeing this play out in media?

Jonathan: If you go into the world of advertising and marketing, customized, personalized advertising is more important than ever before. There’s a realization that eight years of funny commercials that we’ve showed everybody probably for the fourth time, doesn’t work anymore. So there’s a lot of companies moving towards specialized advertising.

How does this type of personalization translate to personalizing content beyond advertising? Who’s going to predict what people will want to watch, and do it first?

Jonathan: It’s not about being the first to predict what people want to watch. It's different. It’s about getting viewers to browse. You want to show them the value of all of the money Hulu has spent and the great range of TV and film for them to choose from.

Q&A With
Julie DeTragila

Head of Research & Insights, Hulu

Julie: There are vast differences between the way under 35-year-olds watch TV and over 35-year-olds watch TV. I grew up in a world where there were maybe 10 channels, and my viewing changed as technology and options changed. Younger viewers started from a really different place. Everything has always been on-demand. Anything they ever wanted to see was available to them, and they therefore have different expectations for TV.

How so?

Julie: One of the things we found with Gen Z is that they really want to be immersed in something for a long time. They want to have content that they can live with for a while; it’s like this long, seamless storytelling. They’ll knock off a couple episodes a night and it will last a couple of months. And then they’ll re-watch it a million times over.

What other shifts have you seen happen-with Gen Z but also more broadly-with the rise of streaming?

Julie: For years, television had to deliver a specific rating. Shows had to appeal broadly or else they wouldn’t survive. And those days are long gone because, with streaming services, shows can reach hundreds of thousands of people or tens of thousands of people and still be considered successful. There’s more experimentation with the types of content; we’re not locked into an hour, a half hour, a comedy, etc. The industry can create really niche shows to appeal to niche audiences, but also simultaneously create big, broad experiences that are shared by millions.

Q&A With
Larissa May

Founder, #HalftheStory

Your work focuses a lot on Gen Zs who, for better or worse, are dubbed “digital natives.” How do you think a generation of digitally native audiences view digital content differently than older generations?

Larissa: I think for young people digital content is a way they’re able to explore their own identities through the story... They want to see themselves and their stories in the content that they’re engaging with.

Tell us a little more about this digital content as Gen Z’s form of self-reflection.

Larissa: Digital content is sort of like a currency. I find that young people want to watch things that their friends are watching so that they can have conversations about it. For example, with Euphoria, young people were just kind of in love with the characters. It was very timely and a bit provocative, and then there was a way that they could see themselves in these stories and connect with their friends about the topics and ideas in the show.

And then also they could almost embody these characters in their own life. I really do think that the TV shows that young people are buying into are actually influencing their culture and their trends and even their language that they’re using.

Q&A With
Richard Frankel​

Global Creative Director, Spotify

What does the future of personalization look like?

Richard: I think it’s all down to trust. We're going to see more opportunity on platforms like Hulu and Spotify where the user trusts us.

That’s really interesting. Another area we wanted to explore is podcasts, and their relationship to video. For example, the show Homecoming is an adaptation of a podcast; the podcast Office Ladies is a spin-off from a TV show. Why do you think the two formats work so well together?

Richard: Anything at all that drives conversation in pop culture, and TV does a lot of that, is worthy of consideration in a podcast environment. Any of these conversations can become multiple audio streams that evolve with experts, interviews, and all kinds of narrative threads that can flesh out characters, or narrative development, or whatever's happening in those shows.

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