Advertising is coming to the streaming world in a big way. Many streamers, particularly those with linear-TV legacies, initially embraced advertising.
Recently, giants including Netflix and Disney have adopted the ad-supported business model, and both plan to roll out new tiers soon. Ad-supported streaming voices are a beautiful idea: most people can’t afford to spend on all the existing services, and ads let users get to more services and content without breaking the bank.
Done right; everybody wins. Done poorly; it’s crazy-making. Already, ad-based streaming is embroiled in complicated queries about user data, viewer tracking, and conclusions about who’s entitled to know what you’re overlooking and when.
But we have a more specific request: can we make the ads bearable to watch? For example, if we binge the entire season of The Resort on Peacock, we look at about four advertisement breaks a show, two ads apiece, over seven episodes. That’s 64 ads. If we notice the same two ads 32 times each, there’s no way we are getting to the end of the series.
Everybody engaged has a reason to fix this, too. Evidence shows that people who see the same ad over and over become less likely to buy the Advertising thing, and customers have complained about repetitive ads for many years. Sixty-nine percent of respondents in a survey said the ads on streaming services were either “very repetitive” or “somewhat repetitive.”
Parks & Recreation has been your go-to background show for the last few months. It’s what you watch while doing the laundry, trying to catch up on email, or playing a video game you would instead not attend to. The show’s seven rounds are all on Peacock, which is convenient because so is The Office — your other background performance. All this is to say; that you watch a lot of Peacock.
At one moment today, while half-watching another Parks & Rec episode, an ad arrived on that you abruptly realized you knew. And you didn’t just know it; you knew every single word—the jingle, which ends in a sing-songy. The song gets clung to your brain for weeks and may never go away.
Unfortunately, it’s also a surprisingly complex problem to crack. Even for a single performance on a single platform, ads can come from many different sources: the network itself, the set-top box you’re overlooking, and even potentially the creator of your TV. The whole streaming-ad cosmos is a mess, by all narratives.
But it doesn’t hold to be like this! Some networks are adopting the idea of showing you one long ad at the beginning of the episode and nothing else while you’re watching. Love that. We also enjoy the pause-screen ads, which are a perfect and discreet way to tell us how to save money on our car insurance. The internet should make ads innovative and exciting again, but by and large, it’s still just drilling the same 30-second spot into our heads.
As the volume of streaming services continues to grow, even more platforms compete for the same dollars, and there’s no underlying technology to ensure you’re not seeing the same ad on TikTok, Netflix, YouTube, and Disney Plus. It means you absolutely will notice the ad in all those places. The TV ad industry is enormous, and that money rapidly leads to platforms. The advertisements that come out of it will make all those platforms unwatchable without changing how money moves around.