During its newfront presentation as reported by Streaming Media, two weeks ago, Hulu launched its live service, which offers subscribers over 50 live channels and the company’s on-demand library for $40 per month. Although it looked like a simple combining of SVOD and live streaming services, under the surface, though, it was anything but simple. Tian Lim, Hulu’s chief technology officer spoke about some of the challenges faced. Hulu with its millions of subscribers uses its own custom content management system and a custom ad server, custom players and custom reporting. Moreover it moves away from standard metadata and hence metadata integration was a big painful process since Hulu gets content from many sources and each of those have different metadata nuances which had to be resolved.
Another challenge was the SCTE 35 ad insertion standard works for broadcast, Lim said, but isn’t robust enough for automated systems. A richer metadata and a common ID space for all sorts of content is what the industry needs according to Lim. Since richer metadata depends on visuals to attract viewers, with some programs that had no visuals and/or portrait art, Hulu had to create its own application to design art for sports matchups. If art is taken more seriously by the industry, companies can perform A/B testing and optimize the art on each user basis. More variation in ad breaks offering variations from the standard ad broadcasts is another proposition.
Experimentation is needed to ensure viewers are engaged, there’s higher CPM rates and decreased ad loads. Hulu has all content ingestion, repackaging, DVR controls and origin serving in the cloud which saved efforts to create a data center and build more bandwidth which in turn led to quicker marketing time although the company had to learn tons about creating a large deployment with Amazon Web Services. Creating an easy and effective user interface which Hulu promises to be super user friendly with it’s intuitive UI and which will set it apart from competitors, was the primary goal.