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    Hulu reaches 28 million subscribers and announces new Marvel shows and ad formats

    Hulu announced at a presentation to advertisers Wednesday that it now has 26.8 million paid subscribers. It's also introducing new advertising features and several new shows, including two new series featuring Marvel Comics characters.

    Hulu said its total customer base is now made up of 26.8 million monthly paid subscribers, with 1.3 million promotional accounts, reaching a total of more than 28 million. The company had said in January that it had 25 million total subscribers.

    Meanwhile, competitor Netflix said in April that it had reached 148.8 subscribers globally and 60.2 million subscribers domestically. Disney, which owns 60% of Hulu, will pull content from Netflix this year to stream on its own new service, Disney+, which launches in November. The service is expected to become a key part of Disney's streaming strategy. At an investors' presentation last month, Disney said it would offer Hulu as a bundle if people subscribe to Disney+ and ESPN+.

    CNBC reported last month that Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, was in talks with Disney to sell its 30% stake in Hulu.

    New ad products

    Hulu's new "binge advertising" experience comes as advertisers are increasingly seeking to reach customers in a way that doesn't annoy them or disrupt their experience. This new format will "make it possible for marketers to target binge viewers with a creative that is situationally relevant to their viewing behavior," the company said in a statement.

    Peter Naylor, Hulu's SVP and head of ad sales, said the platform will identify when someone is "binge viewing," or watching at least three episodes of the same series, and will serve tailored messages to that viewing behavior. He said it could take the form of a message saying a viewer can watch the next episode for free, or a personalized offer from a brand.

    On the screen at the presentation, the company showed a sample message from Starbucks: An ad for a S'mores Frappuccino with the words, "S'more of this. Watch the next episode for free. Brought to you by Starbucks."

    Hulu also offers "pause ads," which are static advertisements that appear when a viewer pauses their content on Hulu. The company said it's expanding the availability of those pause ads to all its advertisers beginning in August, following a beta test with Coca-Cola and Charmin.

    Naylor also said the company is now capping every or ad break at 90 seconds. He said users will not see the same ad more than twice in an hour, and said no ad will run more than four times a day per viewer. This comes after some viewers have bemoaned the number of times they've seen certain ads on the platform.

    (L-R) Stephanie Savage, Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Gregg Sulkin, Ariela Barer, and Allegra Acosta speak onstage at the Marvel's Runaways panel during New York Comic Con 2018 at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on October 5, 2018 in New York City.

    Craig Barritt | Getty Images

    Hulu chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell also announced a new program called "Friends With Benefits."

    "You can think of these as moments that surprise and delight to create a more immersive fan-driven experience," she said. "To kick this off, we'll soon be placing Easter eggs within Hulu. These are hidden gems that unlock special offers from Hulu and some of our brand partners."

    She gave the example of placing the title of a fake show in Hulu's platform that turns out to be a promotion for Old Navy or an offer for a free bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day.

    The streaming service also announced new Marvel shows as part of an expanded partnership with Marvel for two new Uselive-action series, "Marvel's Ghost Rider" and "Marvel's Helstrom." Both shows are expected to debut in 2020.

    Disney-owned Marvel will also have four different live-action series and two unscripted series on Disney+. The service will cost subscribers $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year. That's versus Hulu's current prices for its ad-supported service of $5.99 per month or $11.99 per month without ads.

    Hulu also confirmed a slate of new food-centric programming, plus an adaptation of Liane Moriarty's book "Nine Perfect Strangers," an order for "The Dropout," a series starring Kate McKinnon based on the ABC News podcast on the rise and fall of Theranos and founder Elizabeth Holmes, and a two-year partnership with Chrissy Teigen for original programming.

    Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC.


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