Hulu Gives A Status Report On Its Alien Plot

It’s been a big year for Hulu, the video streaming site that lets you watch a large variety of premium content free of charge. The site has grown from a destination for the tech-savvy to a mainstream hit in the two years since its launch, and much of that growth came in the last 10 months or so. Hulu has just written a blog post about the last year, and it boasts some pretty big numbers.

CEO Jason Kilar writes that Hulu is now up to 43 million unique visitors — a 95% increase over the same time period last year. That’s impressive, but it’s also not much more than the 41.5 million it had back in April. In fact, in terms of unique visitors, Hulu’s growth seems to be fairly stagnant, which could indicate that the market is getting saturated. On the other hand, the number of videos each user is watching is still growing. In April, Hulu streamed 380 million videos. This month, they’re up to a whopping 924 million streams. The chart below from VideoNuze does a good job showing the trend (blue bars are views, the red line represents unique visitors).

The catalyst for the site’s growth spurt this year was likely its Superbowl Ad starring Alec Baldwin, who unveiled the site’s alien plot to take over our brains. That ad was later nominated for an Emmy award, and was followed up by a handful of other star-studded ads that further raised awareness.

Aside from the ads, much of the growth can be attributed to the site’s growing catalog of content: Kilar writes that they’ve grown from 5,600 hours of premium content available up to 14,000 hours. And they’ve gone from 130 content partners to 200, including Disney and ABC. The site has doubled from 166 to 408 advertisers, and its embeds have grown by 237%, up to 6.4 million embedded Hulu players on external sites.

Other notable events for Hulu this year include the launch of Hulu Labs which introduced a new native Desktop application that lets you sit back and watch Hulu with a remote. And, of course, the site engaged in a lengthy battle with Boxee: Hulu cut off Boxee support, and Boxee repeatedly would hack together ways to fix it.

The next year will be a very interesting one for Hulu. It is beginning to develop its own programming. And there have been reports of internal conflict between the site and the content owners who run it, as well as rumors that it may begin to offer a paid model. Whatever winds up happening, it’s becoming increasingly clear that an on-demand model like Hulu’s is the future of premium video content. If Hulu’s owners can’t get it right, someone else, like Apple, will.