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Daily Authority: 🍿 Ad-supported streaming demystified

Is sitting through spades of ads worth it for lower streaming costs? We explore this and more.
By
January 30, 2023
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Adam Birney / Android Authority

🤣 Good day, and welcome back to the Daily Authority. I trust that you’ve had a great weekend! We’ve been revisiting episodes of Seinfeld on Netflix, which is probably the worst use case for HDR the world has ever seen. Thankfully, the remaster hasn’t affected the comedy.

Is ad-supported streaming worth the cash save?

netflix ads plan
Netflix

Speaking of streaming services, my colleague Andrew Grush spent his weekend investigating whether ad-supported tiers are worth it. So, are they?

Struggling streaming services turn to ad-ons

  • Recent years haven’t been too kind to streaming services like Netflix.
  • The streaming giant saw massive gains during the pandemic, but slowing growth in 2022.
  • This has led it and several contemporaries to explore cheaper, and often free ad-supported streaming (FAST) tiers.
  • But the FAST game isn’t simply won by lowering prices and serving ads to users.
  • Unlike traditional TV, streaming services tend to roll the same ads repeatedly, and most are irrelevant.
  • “Regardless of what I seemed to watch, most ads were either trying to sell me medicines for issues I don’t have or trying to get me to sign up for a dating app.”
  • Ad-targeting is either really bad or non-existent at present.
  • Andrew also found that ads served on these services were disruptive and inconsistent.
  • Often these services push ads at inopportune moments.
  • Using HBO Max as an example, some shows don’t have ads at all. Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley are two examples.
  • On the same service, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was laced with nine ads.
  • “No matter what streaming service I used, ads tended to be random in placement and run time.”

Read the fine print

  • Beyond the ad-serving issues, these tiers also have limitations compared to fully premium offerings.
  • Netflix’s Basic plan is limited to 720p resolution, while some services, like Pluto TV, can struggle with aggressive compression.
  • Downloading content is also severely limited.
  • “The lack of offline downloads was one of the things that got me to resubscribe to the more expensive HBO Max plan.”
  • Finally, there’s the question of library availability.
  • Depending on the service you subscribe to, you’ll only have a sampling plate of shows and movies available to view.
  • “This situation mostly applies to Peacock’s free plan (which is more of a sampler than a functional service) or Netflix Basic with Ads.”
  • “As far as I can tell, Disney Plus, Paramount Plus, and HBO Max had their full catalogs available to all subscribers.”

Should you go ad-supported in 2023?

  • Going ad-supported is a great way to save a little cash, but it depends on how much you rely on streaming content for entertainment.
  • “In my case, I’m paying for a few ad-free subscriptions like Peacock, Netflix, and HBO Max. The first because I watch it the most, Netflix because of the missing content, and HBO Max because I tend to download it a lot for watching on the go.”
  • Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so give a tier a try before fully committing to the premium tier.
  • For FAST options, we’d suggest Freevee, Tubi, and PlutoTV to support a larger streaming habit.
  • For ad-supported services, HBO Max, Hulu, and Disney Plus have the best options at the moment.

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Monday meme

We don’t have any particular theme for this week’s Monday meme. Instead, enjoy this picture of a raccoon riding a hog. It’s been a long month. You deserve it.

Have a great week,

Andy Walker, Editor.