Talking streaming insights with Hulu’s Asaf Davidov
In our Share of Voices series, we talk to leaders of the most important advertising and media companies, who are helping to transform the media ecosystem. We’re understanding their vision for the future and the role they’re playing in shaping their corner of the media landscape.
For our inaugural post, Walker Linares, Director of TV at The Trade Desk, sat down with Asaf Davidov, Vice President and Head of Ad Sales Research at Hulu, to discuss the viewership trends and insights he’s seeing on Hulu — one of the most successful streaming services in the market. In this wide-ranging interview, Asaf talks about evolving viewing behaviors on Hulu and in Streaming TV over the past year, the measurement that advertisers can gain through Connected TV today, and his perspective on what media buyers will need in the future.
Walker Linares: So, tell us how your role at Hulu is shaping the TV landscape today.
Asaf Davidov: I oversee Ad Sales Research for Hulu, which means digging into our own audience, understanding viewer habits, using those insights to monetize our platform and to develop features for a better viewing experience. We’ve ushered in the future of TV by merging the best of TV and the best of digital. That’s why much of my time is spent helping advertisers find and apply the right tools for measurement. Streaming TV has given way to new ways for advertisers to better understand not just the efficacy of their campaigns, but also the consumers they’re reaching.
WL: Connected TV viewership, or in the case of Hulu, Streaming TV viewership, has just exploded over the past several years, with a significant spike in the past few months as more people are staying at home and streaming. What is Hulu seeing in terms of viewership? And how will it affect the TV landscape overall?
AD: Streaming is where you find the most hard-to-reach audience in media — an entire generation of cord-cutters and cord-nevers. That’s an enormous opportunity for marketers. Think about it: When Gen Z moves into their first apartment, they’re not getting a newspaper subscription or a landline. And they’re increasingly not opting for an enormous pay TV bundle. The rise of the streaming economy is unstoppable.
As a whole, streaming TV platforms have given way to an entirely new consumer segment — a generation of streamers who love TV and predominantly stream via their Connected TV. At Hulu, nearly 80 percent of our viewers stream on a television device. Lately, we’ve seen an increase in viewing just like every other major player across streaming and linear. Our viewership has been up in the past month or so, as new viewers continue to sign up for Hulu as well. We’ve seen binge sessions go up 40 percent since the beginning of March. And viewers are watching an average of nine different titles in a given week — that’s up over 25 percent since this time last year.
WL: What are some of the implications of this change in viewership for advertisers hoping to engage with consumers via TV advertising?
AD: It’s no secret that today’s TV viewers have changed their viewing habits and are streaming more. When, where, and how they watch has also changed. No longer are the majority of an advertiser’s target audience tuning in weekly to enjoy one episode of a freshman drama during primetime. Streaming TV offers viewers the choice and control to watch what they want, when they want, and, in some cases, as many episodes in a row as they want. In fact, many Hulu viewers binge watch four or five series at any given time. That’s a lot of TV and a lot of time where consumers are engaged.
Streaming TV has also given brands the opportunity to deliver the right creative to the right audience at the right time, all within premium long-form television content. Couple this with the power of automated buying, and advertisers accustomed to buying programmatically can more easily shift their spend.
WL: How can the insights gleaned from Connected TV buys be leveraged to drive full-funnel engagement and performance today? What do we still need to build for the future?
AD: In a world where TV is also digital, and advertisers expect to understand the effectiveness of the viewer experience, we’re committed to delivering accurate and complete measurement across the entire funnel.
Television remains one of the greatest branding platforms ever built, there’s no denying the power of a television commercial. Now. with the proliferation of IP enabled streaming TV, we’re proving that the platform also drives real, measurable actions. Whether it’s driving consumers to buy products, visit stores, or register on websites, streaming TV platforms like Hulu continue to prove that ads delivered via Connected TV can resonate.
While the Connected TV ecosystem has made notable progress in tying actions and products to households, we still have a ways to go to achieve targeting and measurement at the level of the individual viewer. Without improving theses identity capabilities, we will never achieve the holy grail of digital advertising: streaming delivery-relevant, dynamic creative to the right viewer, ultimately achieving precise one-to-one measurement.
WL: Is the future subscription-based, advertising-based, or both?
AD: In today’s world, the success of a streaming TV platform is driven by having a deep understanding of consumers’ taste and expectations. Five years from now, we’re not going to be saying the commercial-free platform won over the ad-supported one or vice versa. The platforms that will win are those that truly understand what their consumers want and that put their viewers first.
WL: What do you think the TV landscape will look like in five years?
AD: In five years, the rise of addressable inventory and the collapse of gross rating points as a measurement standard will likely create a new breed of media buyers who are data-informed and executing audience-centric buying. The whole ecosystem will continue to evolve rapidly, and that’s when we’ll see the role of an advanced TV buyer in Connected TV become more widespread.
WL: Last but not least, if we were to log on to your Hulu account right now, what would be the top three shows on your 'Keep Watching' list?
1. Definitely The Last Dance, ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary. I’ve already re-watched multiple episodes.
2. Dave, an awesome FX on Hulu show.
3. Lately, I’ve been bingeing The Wire and other old HBO titles.
Asaf Davidov is the Vice President and Head of Ad Sales Research at Hulu, where he oversees the day-to-day operations of Hulu’s ad sales research department. Davidov is responsible for leading third-party measurement innovation and solutions; ad effectiveness and attribution studies; and custom sales research initiatives, including consumer behavior models and future advertising models. He also currently leads the sales team in research positioning and thought leadership activations through the market facing portal, Hulu Insights.