Report: Most Streaming Services Are Increasing Ad Loads; Which Service Offers the Smallest Amount of Ads Per Hour?
Ad-supported streaming has turned from a novelty to an indispensable part of nearly every service’s arsenal in a very short amount of time. Wall Street bears a large part of the responsibility for that abrupt about-face, as it is now measuring a streamer’s success not by the number of subscribers it reports, but by the amount of profit it generates for its shareholders.
Since ad-supported streaming plans tend to bring in significantly more money per customer, streamers like Netflix and Disney+ have added them to their streaming packages in the past year. The services have promised to keep ad loads low, but new data from the ad information company MediaRadar, as reported by Business Insider shows that the amount of ads per hour on these services is creeping upwards.
MediaRadar’s numbers indicate that Hulu and discovery+ have seen the biggest ad-load increases. Ads per hour increased by 69% on discovery+, now topping out at around five minutes per hour. Hulu’s ad load is even more onerous, jumping 38% to reach a ponderous total of 7.3 minutes per hour. That’s added salt in the wound for Hulu users, who already report being the least-satisfied of any ad-supported streaming customers — though it should be noted the survey which identifies Hulu customers as the least-satisfied was commissioned before Netflix and Disney+ launched ad tiers.
Those two services are also ramping up the number of commercials their customers are seeing. Disney+ Basic jumped 18% since its launch in December and now shows around 5.3 minutes of ads per hour. Netflix has also increased its ad load since rolling out Standard with Ads in November; an increase of 10% has the service around 3.3 minutes of commercials per hour. Netflix users have taken notice; a survey from April indicated that almost half of Standard with Ads users think there are too many commercials on the plan. Disney+ executives promised last summer to keep the ad load minimal on the service, and thus far have kept another promise to not show ads on kids’ content.
There was one streaming service that has reduced its ad load in the last year: HBO Max. The service launched its ad-supported plan in spring of 2021, and similar to Disney+ promised to keep ads per hour low. HBO Max has kept that promise; in fact, it saw its ads per hour drop from 2.6 minutes in 2022 to 1.6 minutes so far this year. Warner Bros. Discovery executives have pledged that standard will remain the same when the company launches its new streaming product Max on Tuesday, May 23.
It’s intriguing that ad loads on discovery+ are skyrocketing, while HBO Max manages to keep them low. The reason for this all has to do with pricing; at $9.99 per month, HBO Max currently has the most expensive ad-supported streaming plan on the market. But ad-supported discovery+ is half that price at $4.99 per month, and the service will remain in operation for individuals with smaller streaming budgets after Max launches, despite the fact that a majority of its content will also be available on the new platform.
To the chagrin of customers, ad loads on other streaming platforms will likely continue to increase. Advertising in general has been struggling over the past year, so services need to make up the difference somehow, and cramming in extra commercials is one fairly simple way to do that. While ad-supported subscriptions still do cost money for the viewer, services also make a significant amount from advertisers on those plans as well. So, most streamers would prefer to drive customers to the lower-cost tier, in order to maximize their revenue. It’s a symbiotic relationship, though it, unfortunately, means that users bear the negative consequences of having to see more commercials per hour of streaming. However, if platforms go too far and overload their customers with ads, it could have the effect of pushing them to ad-free tiers.
You can compare ad-supported streaming tiers below. Please note, the ad load per hour is the number that company executives have promised their services will max out at; average customers will likely see varying ads per hour in real-time.
|Ad-Supported Service||Price Per Month||Ads Per Hour||Streams||4K Streaming|
|Netflix||$6.99||4-5 min. per hour||1||No|
|Disney+||$7.99||5 min. per hour (none during kids’ content)||4||Yes|
|HBO Max||$9.99||4 min. per hour||3||No|
|Peacock||$4.99||4-5 min. per hour||3||No|
|Paramount+||$4.99||9-10 min. per hour||3||No|
|Hulu||$7.99||9-10 min. per hour||2||Select titles on certain devices|
|discovery+||$4.99||3-5 min. per hour||4||No|
Max is a subscription video streaming service that gives access to the full HBO library, along with exclusive Max Originals. There are hubs for content from TLC, HGTV, Food Network, Discovery, TCM, Cartoon Network, Travel Channel, ID, and more. Watch hit series like “The Last of Us,” “House of the Dragon,” “Succession,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and more. The service changed its name from “HBO Max” on May 23, 2023.
Max has three tiers, an ad-supported plan for $9.99 an ad-free plan for $15.99, and the ultimate tier that includes 4K for $19.99.
All Max subscribers will get the full libraries of shows like “Friends”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “South Park”, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “The West Wing”, and more.
You can choose to add Max as a subscription through Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or other Live TV providers.