Why Are So Many Streamers Adding Commercials to Their Plans?

'Wayne's World'Credit: Universal Pictures
I got all these streaming services to avoid ads—now they're everywhere. 

When we all got rid of cable, many of us did so to have access to content that was not reliant on ads to support it. Now, Disney+ said it will launch an ad-supported option later this year, and Variety reported HBO Max plans to program a 90-second advertising block ahead of some movies. Hulu has always had a commercial branch, and IMDbTV has free movies supported by ad systems. 

Still, if you're paying for these services, why are they forcing ads on you? The simple answer is revenue

While most of these places say it's their chance to access lower-income groups who might not want to pay as much every month, really it's a way to double-dip. You get people's cash, and you get payments from the advertising bodies. 

Most companies are going to tell you that these discounted rates are good for families, but we have no disclosure on how much money they made from advertisements before, after, and during programming. The real worry is that as more and more people embrace ads, how far will they go?

IndieWire has reported that 40% of HBO Max consumers actually pay for the ad-supported version. Well, what's to stop WB from creeping up the price and injecting more ads? Or adding ads everywhere? If other places begin to make sure there are sponsors before every episode, no matter the tier, your hand could be forced. 

Then what separates streaming from cable? It actually might even be more expensive when you add in all the things you may subscribe to watch.  

Let's talk briefly about television history. Back in the day, companies would support a show, placing an ad before the program and maybe product placement throughout. Then, we get designated commercial breaks, with around 9 minutes per 30 being used for advertising. Streaming and premium cable were supposed to buck that trend.

My worry is that time is a flat circle and we're coming back. Product placement is fine, and can be mostly invisible if you're sucked into the world, but I can't imagine being deep into a Succession episode and pausing for a word from American Express. Or watching The Mandolorian presented by McDonald's. 

Let me know what you think in the comments.     

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2 Comments

I have to put up with car ads at the Movie theater, why would I be the least bit surprised by this? Now AMC is charging more for some movies, but leaving the ads up. I seriously would probably pay $2 more to NOT SEE anything but trailers before a movie in the theater. At least I can walk away at home, go to the bathroom or grab something from the fridge.

March 14, 2022 at 8:10AM

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Edward Anderson
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This is where ad blockers come in. I have 3 running on my browser at all times, I haven't seen an ad on any site, let alone any streaming site, for years. (And ad blockers are FREE!)

I think we should focus our energy on the useless ads at the movie theater telling you how awesome the movie theater that you're currently sitting in is... That has to be one of the most inefficient form of advertising ever.

March 14, 2022 at 11:55AM

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bp
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