Netflix and ads? Here’s what’s really happening

Some Netflix users recently saw ads for Netflix original programming when they watched TV shows or movies on the streaming service. What's going on?

Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix/AP
The Netflix original series 'House of Cards' stars Kevin Spacey.

Is streaming giant Netflix beginning to incorporate advertising in their internet TV service?

Many users weren’t happy after the website Cord Cutters News reported that users were seeing ads for Netflix original programming and that the streaming service was "testing ads before shows start" and "post-roll ads ... At this time they may be testing the ads with placements for other Netflix shows, but it is likely that they plan to sell ads similar to what you see at movie theaters."

Some users turned to Twitter to express their displeasure with ads on the service.

However, Netflix soon cleared up any confusion. If there is advertising, says the company, it will be only ads for their own programming, which, as pointed out by Vice writer Jason Koebler, is already done by HBO’s streaming service. 

“We are not planning to test or implement third-party advertising on the Netflix service," Netflix said in a statement, according to the BBC. “For some time, we've teased Netflix originals with short trailers after a member finishes watching a show. Some members in a limited test now are seeing teases before a show begins. We test hundreds of potential improvements to the service every year. Many never extend beyond that.” 

The question of whether to include ads is handled differently by different streaming services. While HBO currently shows trailers for its own programming using pre-roll advertisements, Hulu Plus users see standard TV commercials throughout their shows. “We have found that by including a modest ad load, we can keep the price for Hulu Plus under eight bucks, while still providing users with access to the most popular current season shows on the devices of their choice,” the Hulu website reads.

Similarly, CBS’s streaming service CBS All Access charges users $5.99 for the service and includes ads.

“I don’t think ads will be a barrier to adoption,” CBS Interactive executive vice-president Marc DeBevoise told the website DigiDay in 2014. “Hulu [Plus] also has advertising, so there’s a mix out there in the marketplace. Our classic content will be ad-free, while current and past seasons of content are going to have ads … the wrinkle we add is putting live TV into the mix.”

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