Normally, I wouldn’t write here about ad rates for Web content. But as a consumer of Web-based entertainment and information, I found this kind of encouraging: Bloomberg is saying that The Simposons is making more money on ads in its online incarnation on Hulu than it is on broadcast TV. Um, that’s revenue per thousand viewers, which is how these things are usually measured–the show still makes three times as much from Fox airings than Hulu, simply because there are so many people watching prime-time TV.
I’m happy not because I care where Rupert Murdoch’s spending money is coming from, but because the financial success of the Simps on the Web is evidence that advertisers are willing to sink real money into good stuff on the Web. Advertising, in case you hadn’t noticed, pays the bills of most sites. And in a world in which everyone from Hollywood mo guls to press barons are questioning the Web’s ability to pay for content, any sign at all of money being made is heartening. (Especially since most of the Hulu shows I watch seem to be accompanied by public-service messages–as if nobody wants to spend a nickel to advertise on them.)
Of course, the business model for big-time entertainment is still going to change a heck of a lot over the next few years. Would Bart and company exist at all if there’d been a Web but no network TV back in 1987, when Matt Groening created them? Maybe–the family started out on low-budget shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show. Ones that would perfectly at home on the Web. But it’s going to be a while before, say, a Lost or 24 can be paid for through online ads. I think the day will come when it’s doable, and maybe sooner than we expect. But for now, the Web is still freeloading on content that’s being subsized by other media.