Disney-owned streaming service Hulu is set to allow political issue advertisements on its platform for the first time after facing accusations of censorship.

“After a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months, Disney is now aligning Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the Company’s general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+,” Disney said in a statement, according to reporting from Axios.

Disney’s prior policy allowed for political candidate advertising on Hulu, but prohibited issue-specific ads such as those about gun control or abortion. That prohibition prompted accusations of censorship from Democratic groups, which view those issues as important to their messaging ahead of the midterm elections.

The laws governing cable channels, broadcast networks and streaming services differ, with broadcast networks such as Disney-owned ABC and its local affiliates being prohibited by law from rejecting ads from political candidates on any topic. 

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 20: In this photo illustration, the Hulu media service provider's logo is displayed on the screen of a television on November 20, 2019 in Paris, France.
Hulu will now allow political ads after their editing of a campaign was met with claims of censorship from Democrats.
Getty Images

The new rules bring Hulu in line with other Disney-owned cable platforms such as ESPN and FX, though the company said it will still reserve the right to reject an ad or ask for edits to bring the content in line with Disney standards.

“Hulu will now accept candidate and issue advertisements covering a wide spectrum of policy positions, but reserves the right to request edits or alternative creative, in alignment with industry standards,” the company said.

The changes will not apply to the company’s ad-supported tier for Disney+ that launches later this year, with the company prohibiting political and alcohol-related ads in an effort to keep the platform family friendly. 

In this photo illustration, the American global on-demand Internet streaming media provider Hulu logo is seen on an Android mobile device screen with the currency of the United States dollar icon, $ icon symbol in the background
The company added they still have the right to reject or edit ads in order to fit in with company standards.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

This year’s midterm elections are expected to be the first time ads on streaming services make up a large share of advertising during the election cycle, according to Axios, with projections showing roughly $1.5 billion will be spent on such ads in 2022. Broadcast television is still expected to host the largest share of advertising dollars, with projections estimating $4.6 billion in spending on those platforms.


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Tyler Cowan