The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two – TV Advertising and Social Buzz

On April 25th, Hulu is releasing the much anticipated second season of the dystopian hit series, The Handmaid’s Tale. When new and returning shows are getting ready to air, a large portion of advertising typically occurs as promotional spots within the programs own family of TV networks. But as a streaming video on demand (SVOD) subscription service, how is Hulu promoting The Handmaid’s Tale to wider audiences on traditional media? We examined how the SVOD service has been advertising the return of the show on national television leading up to the release.

Advertising gets a late start

Despite the buzz around the return of the show, Hulu only started advertising The Handmaid’s Tale on national TV in mid-April, just nine days before the release. Even though Hulu chose to begin promotion so close to the release date, spend has been relatively substantial for such a short time frame. From April 16-23, Hulu spent $1.3 million on national TV commercials and only released one ad with 15 and 30 second versions of the spot.


Hulu did also air some commercials in February featuring a montage of original programming which included The Handmaid’s Tale, but this ad did not promote the new season.


The main beneficiaries of advertising dollars from season two of The Handmaid’s Tale so far have been ABC and NBC. The two networks each received an estimated $0.3 million in ad revenue respectively – together making up half of all national TV expenditures for the show. The remaining dollars were split among several networks.

Hulu keeps its TV ad strategy consistent

At first glance, it may look like Hulu isn’t showing The Handmaid’s Tale the same love that audiences are, but looking at other programs exclusive to the streaming service, beginning TV advertising close to, or on a premiere date is not an anomaly. Instead of building up interest over a period of time, Hulu likes to strike hard right before it releases a show, and fizzle fast once all the fanatics have likely binge watched the series. However in this case, Hulu is only releasing the first two episodes to start, followed by one episode each week, so even though advertising started close to the premiere it may continue for a longer period of time.


The exception is Castle Rock, which isn’t set to premiere until summer 2018 but has already been supported by $7.2 million of national TV ad expenditures. However, all of this spend occurred within the first two weeks of February 2018 and there have been no further commercials since.


Competitor strategies are similar

While broadcast TV networks begin airing promo spots for their program schedule months in advance, the promotion strategy that Hulu has been taking is similar to that of rival Netflix, as well as other premium channels like HBO and Showtime.

Netflix original series’ like Altered Carbon and Jessica Jones had approximately two weeks of advertising running up to their premieres – slightly more lead time than some Hulu shows. Altered Carbon began advertising on January 18 for its February 2 premiere. Similarly, the ads for the second season of Jessica Jones began on February 19 with the season released on March 8. Although Netflix takes a similar approach from a timing perspective, the company has been investing more heavily when it comes to spend. Altered Carbon and Jessica Jones had $7.0 million and $5.2 million of national TV ad expenditures respectively, compared to just $1-$2 million for shows on Hulu.

HBO and Showtime have also been taking similar timing approaches for their programming. The second season of HBO’s Westworld premiered on April 22, and though there was one spot promoting the show during Super Bowl LII on February 4, advertising didn’t pick up again until April 11. Showtime took a comparable route for Homeland which began its new season on February 11. Commercials for the show only began airing on January 30. Despite HBO and Showtime beginning advertising close to premiere dates, these channels are only releasing one new episode per week, unlike the streaming services who release entire seasons at once, giving them more opportunity to continue promotion throughout the entire season.

Social Media buzz

As season two of The Handmaid’s Tale has been approaching, discussion about the show on social channels has been increasing according to our Reputation Intelligence service. Indeed, in the last week there has been a 29 percent increase in mentions in US online news and social media channels compared to the previous week – something that typically occurs as an air date nears.

Since April 1, 17 percent of The Handmaid’s Tale online discussion included mentions of Hulu while five percent mentioned rival service Netflix. HBO’s Westworld was also often mentioned alongside The Handmaid’s Tale, as both were starting their second seasons in the same week.

More than 70 percent of commentators on Twitter were female. The most shared news link on the social channel was to an article on conservative commentator Steven Crowder’s blog. The article noted that Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale book on which the series is based, said that the 9/11 attackers got their idea from the Star Wars movie. Despite being the most shared news on Twitter, this represents less than three percent of all coverage in April.

With The Handmaid’s Tale premiering today, we’ll be monitoring TV advertising from Hulu to see if promotion for the show continues over the coming weeks, or if it comes to an abrupt halt days after the premiere like we’ve seen with other shows from the streaming service. For more information or any inquiries in the meantime, contact us today

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