Netflix has started running pre-roll and post-roll video ads for some of its users. Right now it’s a test concept, and is limited to pushing only Netflix Original content, such as House of Cards or Orange is the New Black.
If you’re worried that this is a ‘slippery slope’ situation then perhaps Netflix’s own comments on the matter may reassure you: “We do not and will not be adding third-party ads,” said a spokesperson to Motherboard. That's about as clear-cut as it gets.
Netflix Chief Product Office (CPO) Neil Hunt has been outspoken in his support of ad-free, non-linear internet TV subscriptions services for some time. It seems unlikely that Netflix would drop this closely-held principal in the near future, especially in light of its above promise not to.
Should Netflix adopt third-party ads?
We know that Netflix is running some ads featuring its own content to some users in some regions. Should it go further?
The knee-jerk reaction is to say no; you pay for your Netflix subscription on a monthly basis, why should you have to sit through ads as well?
Take a step back from your Netflix for a second and you’ll remember that paid subscription services have relied on ads for years already. Cable TV, the most prolific and obvious example, is far more expensive per month than Netflix; forces you to watch shows when it ordains, rather than when you choose; and is absolutely jam-packed with advertizements of all kinds.
Cable also has a very big ace up its sleeve: new and relevant content. If you want to be up-to-date with any show that is not produced by Netflix, you pretty much need a cable TV subscription. Doubly so if you live outside the US.
If Netflix could get shows on the air a little more quickly, it would be great news for both its investors and its customers. There are two easy ways of doing this: upping the subscription cost, or running ads before and between videos.
The ads wouldn’t necessarily need to be on every show and movie, just the ones that would otherwise have been a little too expensive to make it on to the service within the next few months. Instead of waiting for the price of streaming rights to come down, the cost could be supplemented with advertizements for a set initial period.
Don’t like the idea of ads? Just wait six months until it would have normally become available, at which point the pre-rolls could be dropped. You’d still end up watching your shows at the same time without ads, but those of us that are willing to sit through 30 seconds of some B-list celebrity trying desperately to sell us something so that we can get our fix a few months sooner would have recourse to do so.