Analyst: Hulu to Bring in $120 million in ’09

Hulu will take in $120 million this year, Screen Digest analyst Arash Amel tells BusinessWeek. That’s a downgrade from his previous estimate of $180 million for 2009. And the previous estimate isn’t all that outdated; it was made in November, after the economy was already well on its way down the tubes.

At the time, Amel had said Hulu would bring in $70 million by the end of 2008; now he’s also downgraded that figure to $65 million. Amel thinks YouTube (s GOOG) revenue for 2009 will be on par with Hulu’s, at $120 million, downgraded from $180 million as well.

That’s just one analyst’s educated guess; Jefferies & Co analyst Youssef Squali recently said he thought YouTube would bring in $500 million this year, and multiple estimates have put YouTube’s 2008 revenue near $200 million. While Amel’s numbers may be smaller, they’re still in the same ballpark. We do know for sure that YouTube revenues were not significant enough to be spelled out in the company’s annual report.

YouTube is, of course, running away with the traffic prize, and it streams far more video than Hulu, but Hulu is breaking from the pack at an impressive clip. Hulu had 333 million streams in February compared to YouTube’s 5.35 billion.

“What we’ve seen is rapid growth in consumption, but the advertising isn’t keeping up,” [Amel] says. Based on his studies of Hulu, the site has only sold about 60% of its ad inventory, with much of the remaining space filled with public service announcements, Amel estimates.

Hulu is doing its darndest to make TV streaming overdeliver in the crappy economy. CEO Jason Kilar was featured in an iMedia Q&A this morning talking up new advertising initiatives for the site, including spots that ask a question of viewers and individually targeted ads.