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Hulu changes policy to allow political ads after backlash

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After facing swift condemnation from Democrats online, Hulu has notified the public that it intends to allow political issue advertising, its parent company, The Walt Disney Co, said in a statement.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported on how the Disney-owned streaming platform had failed to run political ads purchased by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Governors Association on 15 July that covered issues such as gun control, abortion and the climate crisis.

This, even though the Democratic groups were successful in getting those paid slots on other networks and online platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Roku, NBCUniversal, ESPN and a Disney-owned ABC affiliate in Philadelphia.

The story pushed the hashtags #boycotthulu and #cancelhulu to quickly trend on Twitter and by Wednesday it had led the Walt Disney Co to review their ad-buying policies and to release a statement that confirmed that going forward they would treat Hulu with the same set of broadcast standards as the company’s sister networks, such as ABC and ESPN, a Disney spokesperson said to Vanity Fair.

“After a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months, Disney is now aligning Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the company’s general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+,” the spokesperson said.

“Hulu will now accept candidate and issue advertisements covering a wide spectrum of policy positions, but reserves the right to request edits or alternative creative in alignment with industry standards.”

Hulu has offered a tiered subscription service since 2015, running approximately 7.4 ads per show and 12 ads per hour in its original offerings and its licensed series spliced in about 10.1 ads per show and 13.8 ads per hour, according to Media Radar.

Streaming services offering ad-supported tiers has become increasingly popular in recent years with tech giants and has proven to be even more lucrative.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, Media Radar reported that between Discovery’s Discovery Plus, AT&T’s HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount’s Paramount Plus and Comcast’s Peacock, the companies raked in $438m in ad spending across all platforms.

And over the course of the year, the five platforms accepted money to run ads from 5,630 advertisers who placed nearly 500,000 promos just within the second half of the year, Next TV reported.

Ad-free experiences on streaming platforms are seeming to be more a thing of the past, as original movers in the industry, such as Netflix, have even announced that the experience central to its brand will be no more for some when it launches its cheaper advertising-supported plan, which is set to arrive on the server in early 2023.

As more streaming services move into the terrain of ad-supported subscriptions, the issue of policing ads is likely to become a central question for tech companies as they navigate who and what they accept ad-revenue from and what messages they’re willing to put in front of their paying subscribers.

Disney+ has already made large pronouncements in this field, stating that its ad-supported service, scheduled to launch in late 2022, won’t run political ads, or promos for alcohol and rival streamers.

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