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.