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Hulu has kept a tight lid on its ad sales data over the past year, but a new report from Screen Digest suggests that the premium online video site brought in nearly $45 million in ad revenue in 2008. The report looks at the state of the ad-supported online TV market in the U.S.; Screen Digest says it was worth $448 million last year — and that Hulu owned about a 10 percent market share. Not surprisingly, the four major TV networks (ABC’s Full Episode Player, CBS’ Audience Network, NBC.com and Fox.com) commanded the most market share (and the most revenue) overall.
Arash Amel, Screen Digest’s research director, digital media, says that their dominance will continue to fuel growth in the ad-supported online TV market (which includes entertainment, news, sports and events content) — with revenues topping $1.45 billion by 2013.
— Still not enough to make up for lost TV revenues: Despite the growth surge (and the fact that sites like TV.com and Hulu are regularly generating CPMs that are on par with, or better than, their network counterparts), the report finds that ad-supported online TV revenues will still only account for about 2.2 percent of all US TV ad revenue within the next four years. Amel notes that it “definitely won’t be enough to offset the $2 billion decline” that Screen Digest is expecting to impact the on air TV ad market overall.
— What about YouTube? Then there’s YouTube, which has been working hard to become a more hospitable platform for premium content (and premium advertisers). The report is much less bullish about the growth potential for YouTube (and other portals) when it comes to monetizing premium, TV-based content — suggesting that their lack of strong relationships with rights holders (cable networks, broadcasters and even Hollywood studios) will keep a lid on any lucrative new deals. So Amel lists three options for growth if the portals do want to survive: focus on developing their own original series; give up content aggregation in favor of providing the tech and ad support for the TV networks’ sites; and in a worst-case scenario, becoming network affiliates so that they can get cheaper access to the premium content.