Yes, Streaming Ads Are on Repeat
Bloomberg Businessweek|May 10, 2021
Commercials on services like Hulu, Pluto, and Discovery+ have become an $11 billion business
Gerry Smith

Ben Chappell was binge-watching The X-Files on Hulu recently when he kept seeing the same ads for sports betting apps again and again. He says that over three hours he watched the same commercials many times. Hulu says it caps the frequency a user can see the same commercial at two times per hour, four times per day, or 25 times per week. Customers can exceed those limits when additional ads for the same product are sold by third parties, however.

“It’s complete overkill,” says Chappell, 37, who lives in Lakewood, Colo., where sports betting is legal and such ads are flooding the zone. “Maybe I’d watch them if it wasn’t the same commercial over and over.” Instead, he just hits the mute button.

One reason for the repeated commercial déjà vu Chappell fumes about: Demand for streaming TV ads is red-hot. This year, U.S. advertisers will spend $11.4 billion on streaming TV commercials, according to EMarketer, up from $8.1 billion in 2020. The boom is being driven, in part, by a slate of new services catering to consumers willing to sit through a few commercials in exchange for paying less to access the programming. Some services with ads, such as ViacomCBS Inc.’s Pluto TV and Fox Corp.’s Tubi, are free, while others, like Discovery+, Paramount+, and Peacock, typically cost $5 to $6 a month. Paramount+ and Peacock also charge $10 a month to go commercial-free. In June, WarnerMedia will roll out an ad-supported version of HBO Max. According to CNBC, it will initially be priced at $9.99 a month.

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