Hulu Still Going Strong, But Growth Is Dropping Off Sharply

There’s no question that Hulu has firmly established itself as one of the dominant video sites on the web. But its incredible growth seems to be dropping off, and quickly. Between January and February of this year, the site saw a 42% increase in unique U.S. visitors and 33% increase in streams. Between Feburary and March, it moved up to become the third most popular video site in the US, with a 14% growth in uniques and a 20% growth in overall streams.

The latest comScore data for Hulu, which covers the month of April, reports a much more modest 4.4% growth in overall streams, from 380 million streams in March to around 397 million in April. And its unique visitors actually went down month over month, from around 41.5 million in March to 40.1 million over the same time span.

Much of the site’s growth between January and February can probably be attributed to its prime time Super Bowl commercial, which introduced the site for the first time to millions of viewers. Since then the site has kept up a star-studded marketing campaign to keep awareness up. I suspect that most of the site’s new users earlier this year were the low hanging fruit — people who would love to watch their TV and movie content on their computer screen, but didn’t know that Hulu even existed. Now the site is going to have to convince the die-hard TV fans to switch up their viewing habits if it wants to keep the same momentum going. Hulu Desktop, one of the first products to come out of Hulu labs, may help with this. But it’s going to be hard to break people out of old habits.
Update: As commenter Shahar Nechmad points out below, some of the drop off may have had to do with the timing of the broadcast of new content (though most prime-time shows were still on the air through April, so I doubt that can be blamed in this case). With that in mind, it won’t be surprising if we see Hulu growth continue to slow over the summer, when most hot shows aren’t on the air.

That said, Hulu’s still the number three video site in the US, which isn’t half bad.