Survey: Unnatural Ad Breaks, Commercial Repetition Have Most Negative Impact on Streaming Viewers
Ad-supported streaming is continuing to enlarge its presence within the greater streaming industry. Netflix and Disney+ are the latest services to introduce ad-supported price plans into the market, and free ad-supported streaming services like Tubi and Pluto TV are seeing impressive gains in active users every month.
A new survey from Yahoo and Publicis Media is highlighting which services are capturing audience attention the best with their ads, and what streamers can do to increase that key metric. Ad attention is greater for more “intentional” paid subscription services, the survey found. Viewers tend to pay more attention to ads on platforms that are paid or subscription-based, particularly live TV streaming services — also known as virtual multi-channel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) — like fuboTV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. This also proves true on hybrid services like Hulu, [HBOMax], and Paramount+ where there is more intent behind a user’s programming choice.
The data shows that while audiences tend to pay more attention to ads in subscription-based applications, ad attention still varies across all app types. Some apps, such as Xumo and The Roku Channel, outperform the benchmark for free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) services in terms of attention. Therefore, even in a FAST environment, it is important for content providers to be selective with the applications chosen for airing ads.
The survey offers some helpful tips for streaming services that are looking to increase viewer attention during commercials. One of the most effective ways to do this is by ensuring that users don’t see the same ad over and over again. Viewer attention drops when they are exposed to the same ad within two minutes and remains lowered for ads aired less than five minutes apart. The study suggests an attention “sweet spot” of six to 10 exposures, while maintaining an optimal gap of 12 to 24 hours between exposures to avoid brand burnout.
Seeing the same ad too often has a widely negative impact on the brands being advertised. Users are highly likely to report a negative feeling toward a brand if they see its ads too often in a viewing session.
The timing of ad breaks also has a significant impact on the receptiveness of viewers. Unnatural breaks, like those that cut off a show or movie mid-dialogue, are considered “the worst,” and many users prefer the more natural breaks they’re accustomed to on linear TV. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents said that ads that cut a show off at an unnatural place are the worst ad experiences, while 61% said the same for ads that cut a show off at a cliffhanger, and 47% for ad breaks that aren’t evenly spaced out throughout a show.
Most users want an ad experience similar to linear TV, with 55% saying that cable delivers more predictable ads and 51% indicating that they would like streaming ad experiences to reflect the cable ad experience. Most respondents also said vMVPD and hybrid services deliver the most “natural” ad breaks.
Giving users control over their own ad experience will also be a crucial factor for streamers going forward. Fifty-seven percent of respondents to the Yahoo/Publicis survey said that seeing a countdown timer would make their ad experience better, and 56% said choosing which category of ads they see would do likewise. Giving users the opportunity to customize their ad viewing would be helpful to streamers who want to give customers a good experience, and to companies who want to see which of their products are garnering the most attention.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that ad-supported streaming is here to stay. Users might prefer to watch content ad-free in a vacuum, but the lower cost of streaming video with commercials will keep customers rolling into platforms that offer it. This survey from Yahoo and Publicis offers clear solutions to streamers that want to keep users engaged, while offering them the best possible ad experience.