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Not coming to Netflix in 2020: Ads

Tiers of joy

netflix logo on red background
Image: Unsplash

If you subscribe to multiple streaming services you may have noticed a common thread — ads, or tiers that layer on specific levels of advertising. Most streaming services are like ordering a pastrami sandwich but getting half a pastrami sandwich and a 30-second conversation about why you should also purchase a rolling suitcase that the deli inexplicably sells, before receiving the second half of the sandwich.

Netflix has been a standout exception since its rise to the top of the steaming streaming pile.

While Disney+ also free of ads, its existence is one giant ad for a mountain of merchandising that is associated with it. Netflix, however, remains as pure as an untouched mountain stream that an American chemical company has yet to discover as a repository for trash.

During its Q4 earnings call, Netflix held fast to its continuing decision to not include ads in its service. That is to say, Netflix is not planning on releasing a lower-priced ad-supported tier any time in the near future. This isn’t to say it’s not slightly worried about competition, it just knows how to read the room.

While Netflix does track basic viewership data as well as user interactions, it doesn’t collect the kind of personal data that other big tech companies collect like location

CEO Reed Hastings pointed out on the call that Netflix is just focused on delivering content, not collecting user data.

“Google and Facebook and Amazon are tremendously powerful at online advertising because they’re integrating so much data from so many sources. There’s a business cost to that, but that makes the advertising more targeted and effective. So I think those three are going to get most of the online advertising business,” said Hastings on the call. “We don’t collect anything. We’re really focused on just making our members happy.”

Apple TV Plus — along with Disney+, Hulu, that Peacock thing, Sling and HBO Max (which is not HBO Go) — will be joined by IMDb TV, TUBI and some Roku streaming platform in the ad-supported tiers bucket of streaming services. That bucket is filled up more than Josiah’s battered cantaloupe he keeps wrapped in a towel in the corner of the bedroom. Netflix meanwhile, appears to be comfortable never having ads at all.

This is good news for consumers like me (and you) who freaking hate ads. If I had to choose just one streaming platform that delivered a constant stream of new and original content on a monthly basis for a moderately low price, I’d pick the one without ads. Wouldn’t you? Even the premium version of Hulu still manages to sneak in ads on shows that refuse to play along.

With all the big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon out there scraping as much user data as possible in order to serve ads and make even more money while we toil away in the mines, it’s refreshing to hear one tech giant outright refuse to play that game. Netflix isn’t being cagey about ads, it’s being clear that ads are not how it wants to run its business.

It’s tough to find a tech company that sells a service and when you pay for that service, that’s all you get

Google and Facebook are free to use, so it makes sense that those companies rely on advertising for revenue. That doesn’t excuse the overreaching user data scraping, but it does explain it. Netflix is just Blockbuster in the 21st century. You pay to watch movies, you get to watch movies. Simple.

This isn’t to say that we won’t see ad-supported tiers in the future on Netflix. Things change and they change fast in the tech world. With more streaming services releasing all the time, there is going to be a reckoning. However, with its resistance to collecting user data, Netflix might have found its golden ticket to staying relevant and surviving the coming streaming wars.

What do you think? Would you use an ad-supported tier of Netflix? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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