Friday, August 19, 2011, 10:22 AM ET|Posted by Will RichmondThis week Morgan Spurlock's new six-part documentary series "A Day In The Life" premiered on Hulu, which is its exclusive distributor. The premise is that each episode follows one well-known personality for a full day, giving the viewer an intimate look into their life. The first episode focused on Virgin Group's Richard Branson. Future episodes are set for release on Wednesdays.
I thought the episode was well done and fortunately it doesn't slip into a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" mode, instead mostly focusing on Branson's promotional tactics in support of Virgin America's new Chicago routes (note "Entourage" fans will enjoy a cameo from actor Adrian Grenier). Perhaps the most interesting thing about "A Day In The Life" wasn't the show itself but how heavily Hulu is monetizing it with ads, illustrating the point I was making just yesterday about online video's potential for heavier ad loads.
There's a 5-second brought-to-you-by "brand slate" at the start, followed by a 30-second spot. Subsequently there are 3 ad breaks, with each having a pair of 30-second spots. At the conclusion there's a display ad as well. So in total about there's over 3 minutes of ads, moving "A Day In The Life" toward a typical TV ad load. Though the initial release announcing the series said each episode would be a half-hour, it's actually just over 22 minutes, so the breaks feel like they come along pretty quickly.
The first time I watched, the first ad I got was for Carefree tampons (ugh!), which I quickly clicked "no" to the question in the upper right, "Is this ad relevant to you?" Subsequently I got a heavy dose of Coffee-mate Natural Bliss and Verizon FiOS ads, both of which are reasonably relevant to me, although they became a bit repetitive.
As I previously wrote, Hulu's move into original programming echoes the playbook of many cable networks and is a worthwhile differentiator. Hulu's heavy monetization of "A Day in the Life" also shows the company has become more serious about monetization than it originally was. The approach is a reminder that regardless of where quality programming lives - on TV or online, if it's going to be free it's going to require a substantial ad load to be economically viable. That's something viewers are going to have to get used to.