Most U.S. streaming users have come to expect commercials on the platforms they watch, but the vast majority are being served the same ads too frequently and not when they want to see them, new Ad Age-Harris Poll research has found.
Ad-supported video-on-demand services have accelerated at a healthy clip amid the increasingly crowded “streaming wars” and four-in-five Americans now expect some form of ads to air on the streaming platforms they use. That being said, 44% say they don’t expect more than one or two commercials per 30-minute show. That’s in stark contrast to the just 7% of users who expect four or more ads in the same timeframe.
While many streaming platforms that have hit the market over the last few years promote a lighter ad load, that still equates to about five minutes per hour (or 10 30-second commercials) for NBCUniversal’s Peacock and around four minutes (or eight 30-second commercials) for WarnerMedia’s HBO Max.
Ad loads vary significantly from platform to platform, but one near-universal issue that respondents flagged is ad frequency: 88% of streaming users in the U.S. say they often see the same ad or ads multiple times per viewing session, the poll found.
A similar number of Americans, 82%, say they would prefer to view ads before a program begins rather than be interrupted with a commercial midway through, with nearly as many reporting that they use ad breaks to multitask.
More than two-thirds of respondents have paid to subscribe to at least one streaming platform sans ads, but the poll shows that people who use multiple services might only choose to upgrade one or two to the ad-free tier.
Most AVOD platforms currently available in the U.S. don’t allow people to choose when during their viewing experience they’re served ads, but the new Ad Age-Harris Poll research suggests that giving them some degree of control might boost ad engagement.
At least 56% of survey respondents say they would pay more attention to any given ad if they were able to decide when they watched it; but that’s not the only method of effectively boosting viewer engagement that the research found.
For many viewers, their connection with an ad may hinge on receiving something in return. The poll found that 55% of U.S. streaming users would interact with an ad in exchange for a discount on a product or service, while 53% say they would interact with an ad at least once for an otherwise ad-free experience for the rest of their viewing time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the research further confirmed that pace of on-demand streaming services; 63% of Americans report the use of at least one streaming platform in their household, versus 55% who say they still watch linear TV at home.
And among streaming users, one service is rarely enough, with just over half of respondents in this category currently enjoying four or more paid or free platforms in their immediate household.
This survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ad Age between Oct. 15 and Oct. 18, polling nearly 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 or older.