TV Ads Are Coming Back – on Streaming Services

August 31, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

Advertising Trends | Creative & Formats | Digital | Television | TV Advertising | Video

An increasing number of TV viewers use a free service with ads, as so-called FAST (free, ad-supported streaming) services grow in popularity, according to survey results [excerpt download page] from Hub Entertainment Research.

According to the study, 55% of TV viewers reported using at least one FAST in Q2 2022, up from 50% in Q1 and 46% in Q4 2021. Some 42% of respondents also subscribe to a paid streaming service with ads (such as Hulu or Discovery+), up from 38% in Q4 2021.

This growth in ad-supported streaming services recently led Kantar to declare: “Streaming has gone full circle, once being the destination to avoid Cable TV ads, to increasingly relying on ads to drive growth.”

Here are some quick highlights from Hub’s research.

Money and Content Matter More Than Ads

Given the choice, 56% of respondents would rather save money than avoid ads, choosing the statement “If watching ads will cost $4-$5 less than watching ad-free, I’ll almost always choose that option.”

Separately, about one-third (34% share) of respondents said that content matters the most – if they’re really interested in a show it doesn’t matter to them if there are ads. That was twice the share (17%) who said that they would never consider a TV service with ads, no matter how much they like the shows. The remaining half of respondents said they can tolerate a certain number of ads, but if there are too many they’ll go elsewhere.

The share saying that content matters the most (regardless of ads) has grown from the year-earlier period: last year about one-quarter (26%) said the same, versus 34% in this latest survey.

Streaming Tops Traditional TV for the Ad Experience

Traditional TV lost the content war and it seems that it’s losing the ad experience battle too. More than half of viewers of Hulu (63%), Discovery+ (63%), HBO Max (60%), and Paramount+ (52%) say that they see a reasonable number of ads on the platforms. In fact, of the 5 major AVOD platforms measured, Peacock is the only in which fewer than half (46%) of viewers said they see a reasonable number of ads. Nonetheless, in each of the 5 platforms, more than twice as many said they saw a reasonable than unreasonable amount of ads.

The same can’t be said for traditional TV. Instead, 41% of live TV (MVPD) viewers said they see too many ads, compared to 27% who believe they’re exposed to a reasonable amount. The same is true for on-demand (MVPD), for which more viewers feel exposed to too many ads (38%) than a reasonable amount (34%).

Most of the major AVOD platforms also outperform traditional TV in stated ad attention. For example, 51% of Discovery+ viewers who saw ads during a show said they paid plenty of attention to the ads they saw (8-10 on a 10-point scale), versus 11% who said they paid little attention (0-2 on the same scale).

More than twice as many Hulu viewers who saw ads paid attention than didn’t, as did 3 times as many HBO Max viewers and 1.5x as many Paramount+ viewers.

There seems to be active ad avoidance on live TV (MVPD) though: 41% rated their attention to ads they saw between 0-2, compared to just 10% who rated their attention 8-10.

It should be noted that Peacock received low marks for ad attention, slightly below on-demand (MVPD).

How Much is Too Much?

So how many ads will viewers tolerate? 11 or more ads per half-hour is too much, with more respondents calling this an unreasonable than reasonable amount. Respondents are split on the 6-10 range, with an almost-equal portion saying they’re unreasonable as reasonable.

Five or fewer ads seems to be the sweet spot, with almost twice as many saying this is a reasonable (47%) than unreasonable (25%) number of ads.

What about the length of ad breaks? Anything longer than one minute will test viewers’ patience, per the report. More than twice as many said that 2 minutes or more was unreasonable than reasonable, and likewise 90 seconds or more was deemed unreasonable by more respondents than reasonable.

With that in mind, viewers generally seem OK with ad breaks of a minute in length (44% reasonable; 33% unreasonable), and express more comfort the shorter the length, with ad breaks of less than 30 seconds deemed the most appealing (50% reasonable; 21% unreasonable).

For more, download the excerpt here.

About the Data: The results are based on a May survey of 3,004 US consumers age 14-74 who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week.

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