Hulu recently posted a blog article talking about the business of numbers, including subscribers, revenue, content, etc. Their revenue has topped $1 billion they said, but no break down was done of where that revenue is coming from. However, with some simple math we can get an idea of where it all comes from. We can even drill down and get a pretty good estimate on how much it would be to place ads on Hulu content from a CPM, cost-per-thousand, viewpoint. Granted, it might not be true, or ideal, but it's an estimate.

In the Hulu blog post, they touted the fact that they've finally reached 5 million paying subscribers. From a GRP metric standpoint that means potential reach of Hulu Plus members is a meager 1.58% of the total U.S. population. Not all that impressive actually, the non-paying Hulu viewers total about 3.62% - more than double according to comScore who has them at 5.2% total. However, the company was quick to state that it has had quite a bit of growth considering that in 2011 they had only 1.5 million(ish) Hulu Plus accounts. From their own numbers we now know that 5 million people were willing to sign up for a Hulu Plus account. In Q4 2012 Hulu stated it had 3 million Hulu Plus accounts, which means a growth of 2 million subscribers in 2013.

Some Hulu Plus Math

Breaking that out over 12 months gives monthly growth average of 166,667 accounts, or monthly revenue growth from Hulu Plus accounts of $1.331,669.33 (if all pay regularly). Now crunch all that together and you get $391,510,207.74 in Hulu Plus revenue for all of 2013 (hypothetically). I did it that way because if you were to just say, 5 million accounts all year at $7.99 a month, the result would be $479.4 million - roughly $89 million in difference, a far less accurate number. There is plenty that could be wrong with my $391.5M number as well if more account were created earlier in the year, it should be larger, later in the year, smaller. Accounts doesn't necessarily mean actively paying or ever paid, it could simply mean millions of people signed up but didn't pay a dime all year. But this is a number we can work with, after all, we're looking for an estimate of average CPM.

And Hulus Average CPM in 2013 is... hulu paying subscribers

Some Ad Viewing Numbers

comScore monthly reports ad numbers for Hulu so I compiled those numbers for 2013. For the first eleven months of the year, Hulu showed 15,389,029,000 ads according to those numbers. In October and November it was about 1.4 billion ads, so we will use that for December for a grand total of 16.8 billion video ads for Hulu in 2013.

Some Hulu Ad CPM Math

Alright a quick recap of the numbers:

  • Hulu Estimated Revenue 2013: $1B
  • My Hulu Plus Estimated Revenue 2013: $391.5M
  • My Hulu Estimated Video Ad Views: 16.8 billion

So we do some simple math and subtract Hulu Plus revenue from Hulu revenue for the year (1.000 - .3915) and get the remainder which is $608.5M. Now we take the number of video ad views on Hulu according to comScore (with my estimate for December) and divide it by the remaining revenue (16.8/.6085) and we get an average CPM of $27.61.


Hulu is, hypothetically, averaging around $27.50 CPM for ad placements against its content.

That's quite impressive, because here are Nielsen Media Research numbers for primetime TV:

Avg. Min.

Cost Per
30 Sec.

Cost Per
1000 Homes



So, essentially, Hulu could be nabbing more per view right now than TV did in February of this year (when the table was put together), almost $2.50 more per thousand views. Then again, there is some leeway in my math since it's all hypothetical. See final section of this article.

This table also brings to light another interesting fact, TV viewing is plummeting. In 1995, it was over 10.86 million, in 2013 it's just 4.4 million, over a 50% drop. This is primetime. Daytime numbers look like this.

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Single digit CPMs which have been mostly stable since 2006. Meanwhile, primetime CPMs are up about $3 since 2006, not taking into account the 2008 spike.

But wait, there's more!

Hulu Advertiser Numbers

Hulu also reported a pretty sizable increase in the number of advertisers which now tops 1,000 brands, a 15% increase over 2012. With 1000 brands, that means each brand, on average, spent $6.085M with Hulu. Highly unlikely, when it's more like 10 brands spent $30M each and the other 990 made up the difference. The top 10 probably look like Best Buy, Verizon, Capital One, some car company, some other wireless company. Honestly, I don't know, I read when the ads are on (as I've mentioned). But I do know that Alec Baldwin is rather funny in the Capital One ads and that Best Buy, or Microsoft, are massively pushing the Surface tablets right now (just binged on some Hulu last night).

That's a (Year-end) Wrap!

Finally, I wanted to leave you with one dubious claim Hulu made in the same blog post.

Hulu remained #1 in engagement among top ad-supported online video sites, and #1 in market share of all premium online video providers...

Number one in market share of all premium online video providers it says. Yet, here are the numbers from comScore for November 2013, a chart which it did not make. Apparently, Hulu doesn't consider any of those companies premium video providers.

Top U.S. Online Video Content Properties Ranked by Unique Video Viewers
November 2013
Total U.S. – Home and Work Locations
Content Videos Only (Ad Videos Not Included)
Source: comScore Video Metrix
PropertyTotal Unique Viewers (000)Videos (000)*Minutes per Viewer
Total Internet : Total Audience  189,17847,148,0461,177.3
Google Sites163,50414,737,686387.9
AOL, Inc.73,0221,339,83070.2
Yahoo Sites45,833343,75162.0
Amazon Sites42,204182,51119.6
Microsoft Sites40,264653,77341.1
Turner Digital30,616248,23039.2


Oddly, here's what the ad networks chart looks like, on which Hulu is in the bottom third.

Top U.S. Online Video Ad Properties Ranked by Video Ads* Viewed
November 2013
Total U.S. – Home and Work Locations
Ad Videos Only (Content Videos Not Included)
Source: comScore Video Metrix
PropertyVideo Ads (000)Total Ad Minutes (MM)Frequency (Ads per Viewer)% Reach Total U.S. Population
Total Internet : Total Audience  26,757,72210,234154.655.8
AOL, Inc. (including,999,2971,81524.752.2
Google Sites3,643,33036531.737.0
BrightRoll Platform**†2,683,2861,26815.954.4
SpotXchange Video Ad Marketplace†2,377,87980418.940.7
Specific Media**2,179,02488213.751.3
TubeMogul Video Ad Platform†2,094,28664217.538.5
Tremor Video**1,133,36252610.833.7


Hulu reaches just 5.2% of the U.S. population meaning, at most, 16.38 million unique viewers (~315m*.052) and its ad frequency is, if I may, GINORMOUS. Just something to think about for the self-proclaimed, "world’s most effective video advertising service," who is apparently focused on, "delivering industry-leading results for our advertising partners." Industry leading repetition maybe. Meanwhile, AOL is crushing it with 73M unique viewers and 4B video ads a month and Brightroll reaches the most people in the US with a ridiculously low frequency.

Caveat Lector - Reader Beware

If there's a 10% margin of error, Hulu's ad CPM could be as low as $24.75. On the other end of the spectrum, if there are really just 3 million paying Hulu Plus members, ad revenue could be as high as $713M meaning the CPM is around $42 and the other numbers would all have to be adjusted accordingly. Still, isn't hypothetical math fun?!

  • ramsri

    Chris, as you say hypothetical math is fun. You rock. I disagree with the theory that you cannot put ads in a subscription model. Cable companies are killing users. I think Netflix may be leaving money on the table to build user base. I wish these companies do the sensible thing and not kill a good business. IP based television is where the future is and it needs to be built on sound business decision.

  • Kari Kailamaki

    Interesting article but it seems CPM is calculated upside down - by dividing Impressions with Dollars which tells us how many Ads can be bought by one Dollar - not Cost per Thousand Impressions. Correct figure seems to be $36

  • LAuserR

    Christopher, apples and oranges. Hulu runs premium video. Compare uniques against individual sites that do the same. Not every that goes to AOL or Amazon is watching premium video. ABC and NBC numbers include all of their many different sites- break em out and individually they are mole hills. And ad networks?? Ha! Those grifters run video ads on sites, not in premium video. As a matter of fact they auto run ads and auto run below the fold. Its not the same business. You want to be like a real reporter, break that shit down and check out the real story.

    • Christophor Rick

      What? I never said everyone going to AOL was watching video, but this is an article and site dedicated to video. As for your comments on ad networks - publishers place the video ads on their sites, not the ad networks. So if they are set to auto run and are hidden below the fold, it's the PUBLISHER that has control of those settings. This has also been discussed numerous, NUMEROUS times here at ReelSEO including a big piece with Jim Louderback. Your comments are without merit and off topic, yet again.

      • LAuserR

        Tricky Ricky getting all slippery now. Tell the right story baby. Figures may not lie but liars know how to figure. So tell the right story. Compare apples to apples. All merit and on topic. Don't get slippery Tricky Ricky

  • Joe

    This is off topic but Google ran 3.6 billion ads on 14.7 billion videos per those comscore numbers. Everyone else combined ran 23 billion ads on 34 billion videos? I suppose that includes video ads as interstitial on Web pages and Facebook apps...

    • Christophor Rick

      Joe - "Videos" by comScore is really sort of arbitrary and a video is the section of video content between 2 ad pods. So it's not unique pieces of content. I've talked about that many. many times.

  • VitaminCM

    Hulu Plus is crap and will never get traction like Netflix or Amazon Prime. You can't charge money and roll commercials. Nobody wants to put up with that crap.

    • Christophor Rick

      and yet they pulled in A BILLION DOLLARS in revenue... must be doing something right.

    • LAuserR

      Ummm, what do you think cable is dude? Hulu was never a DVD service. On Plus they run 2 OR 3 adds in a break. What's the big deal? I justdo something else or just watch the add-on there are so few. And if the keep the price super low then all the better. Grow up kid

      • VitaminCM

        Being "Just as bad as cable" isn't exactly what most consumers are seeking. It's fine to have a cheap, commercial subsidized version, just offer a commercial free version for a higher price. Let me choose my experience.
        Also, HBO and Showtime are closer to the models of the new streaming video services than NBC and CBS.

        • LAuserR

          But its not just as bad as cable. There are way less ads on Hulu Plus and to say there isn't is a lie. Don't believe me? Count the ads in each break. And by the way, what do you think pays for these shows? Are you suggesting that all TV be subscription? Grow up and stop whining. Ads and TV are peanut butter & jelly. July's model was never designed to be Netflix, its TV on the web. Such a spoiled generation, I couldn't of dreamed of a service like this in the 70s and 80s