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The Drumbeat for Netflix to Start Running Ads Grows Louder

Phillip Dampier July 10, 2019 Competition, Consumer News, Netflix, Online Video 2 Comments

Could this be the Netflix of the future?

Investors concerned about the increasing costs of developing new original content for Netflix have caused a drumbeat for the world’s largest on-demand video streaming company to start running advertising inside TV shows and movies.

A new study finds that almost one-third of Netflix customers claim they would not mind seeing advertising if it meant paying a lower price for Netflix.

The Diffusion Group, based in Los Angeles, asked 1,292 current Netflix subscribers if they would switch to a new, lower-priced Netflix tier that included commercial advertising. Nearly 32% of respondents expressed confidence they would make that switch, with 49% opposed and 20% undecided.

A recent streaming conference in Europe seems to have stoked interest in the concept of an ad-supported Netflix, although the company has repeatedly claimed it has no plans for an advertiser-supported tier, dismissing the idea as a concept dreamed up by their competitors, notably Comcast/NBC and Hulu.

TDG Research president Michael Greeson believes advertising on Netflix is inevitable however, driven by a backlash from Wall Street over how much Netflix is spending on content as it continues to lose access to some of its most popular licensed content, being pulled off Netflix by its competitors Disney and AT&T/WarnerMedia.

“Given the rising costs of programming and growing debt, so goes the argument, it is just a matter of time before the company makes a move,” TDG said in its report.

Netflix’s early days of streaming depended on a deep library of popular movies and TV shows that were readily licensed to the company by major Hollywood studios. But in the last five years, those studios have demanded dramatically higher licensing fees, and in the last year they have ended some contract renewals altogether to reserve content for the launch of their own affiliated streaming services, including Disney+ and HBO Max.

“Netflix’s response to its thinning third-party library is to spend more on originals, which it’s gambling will keep subscribers from jumping ship,” Greeson said. “But with half or more of its most-viewed shows being owned by three studios, each of which is launching their own direct-to-consumer services, how long can you convince 55+ million US consumers that your service is worth paying a premium price, especially compared with Hulu (offers an ad-based option), Amazon Prime Video (free with Prime), and Disney+ (coming in a $6.99/month)?”

Greeson

Netflix has faced growing pressure from investors to reduce the level of debt it has accumulated financing those original productions, including pushes for rate increases and advertising. Netflix raised prices, but has publicly opposed advertising. Some investors now want another rate increase, which Greeson warns would be perilous for Netflix’s subscriber count, because their research found the last price increase “strained the limit of the service’s value.” That research was done before subscribers start to discover their favorite shows will increasingly be pulled off the platform. Greeson believes another rate increase will cause at least some customers to flee, stalling Netflix’s growth.

The happy medium in Greeson’s view is the introduction of an ad-supported tier for price-sensitive subscribers, and he predicts Netflix will introduce it in the next 18 months.

“Ads will become an important part of a comprehensive tiering strategy that helps bullet-proof Netflix for years to come,” Greeson said.

Netflix Rivals Claim It Will Eventually Have to Bow to Advertising

Phillip Dampier June 25, 2019 Competition, Consumer News, Hulu, Netflix, Online Video No Comments

As some Netflix shareholders grumble about the company’s massive investment in developing original content, some of Netflix’s smaller rivals claim the streaming service cannot forever depend on subscription fees alone to cover the billions being spent on new series and movies.

NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino and Hulu’s Peter Naylor both believe Netflix will eventually have to begin inserting advertising into shows if it wishes to continue its spending spree on content while avoiding steep rate increases.

At a Cannes Lions panel held last week, content companies discussed the evolution of streaming services and their embrace of traditional advertising.

“When you have to make more programming that’s not guaranteed to be a hit, you have to spend more money, you have to build your brand, you have to help the consumer discover your stuff — the price will go up for the subscription, and it would be logical to mitigate those increases to take ads,” Yaccarino said.

Hulu remains the biggest and best-known example of a streaming service built on a traditional advertising model. Customers pay $5.99 a month for advertiser-sponsored content, similar to traditional linear television. Customers can buy their way out of advertising interruptions by paying $11.99 a month for a commercial-free plan that is roughly double the usual price. Just under 30% of Hulu subscribers currently select the commercial-free option.

Hulu’s bathroom break ad, displayed when a video is paused.

Naylor claims traditional advertising need not continue to resemble commercial broadcast television, despite the fact Hulu is still mimicking that experience.

“The future of ad-supported media does not resemble what we’re doing today in terms of ad load or even ad shape,” Naylor said. “It can be interactive advertising or nonintrusive advertising. I think you’re going to see a lot of innovation from all of these new OTT providers because we’re allowed to. We’re not married to the clock. Fifteen and 30-second ads were a product of linear TV. When everything’s on demand and served through an IP address, the ad experience is going to dramatically improve.”

Hulu has been experimenting with different ad formats to gauge subscriber acceptance. Interactive advertising, viewer-selected ads, and banner ads that appear when programming is paused are all being tested.

Although Hulu is dabbling in original content, NBCUniversal spent more than $28 billion on content acquisition and development last year. In contrast, Netflix spent $12 billion. Yaccarino said that as more streaming services launch, particularly those from Disney and WarnerMedia, Netflix will have to further increase its spending to keep up.

A Netflix spokesperson told CNBC all this talk was “wishful thinking from an advertising conference.” Netflix is not currently focused on incorporating ads into any of its shows, the spokesperson confirmed.

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