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Netflix is testing 'commercials' for some viewers, but not calling them commercials

Contributed by
Aug 20, 2018

Netflix binge watchers are certainly no strangers to sitting out an all-night marathon of Stranger Things. But at least some appear, well, disenchanted with the service’s new rollout of in-house ads that have started popping up in the middle of their Disenchantment bingeing sessions.

The red-letter streaming giant reportedly has begun dropping promotions that suggest other Netflix shows to watch while viewers are smack in the middle of the one they’re actually watching. A Reddit thread (now locked) that turned up a few days ago collected a number of testimonials from disgruntled viewers who reported they’d encountered the promos in between episodes of whatever show they happened to be binge-watching.

If that sounds similar to the sort of conventional TV commercial advertising that subscribers are paying between $8 and $14 per month to avoid, the viewers who say they’ve encountered the promos thought so, too. Netflix has since reportedly attempted to clarify that the promos aren’t technically ads, that they actually provide some benefit to users since they refer them to other programming Netflix’s algorithms think those users might enjoy, and that the promos are entirely skippable.

According to cordcuttersnews.com, Netflix says it’s simply trying to evolve a concept it introduced a couple of years back, and that it’s all just a part of personalizing the user experience. 

Since first testing out the idea, Netflix reportedly said in a statement it’s “been experimenting even more with video based on personalized recommendations for shows and movies on the service or coming shortly,” and that “[i]n this particular case, we are testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster. It is important to note that a member is able to skip a video preview at anytime if they are not interested.”

SYFY WIRE has reached out to Netflix for clarification.

Netflix isn’t the only subscription service to pack self-promotion into the content that viewers are trying to access. On-demand services like HBO for years have dropped in promotions for their other shows at the start of the episodes viewers dial up, though those, like Netflix’s reported promotional spots, can be fast-forwarded.

In any event, news of Netflix’s latest experiment comes on the heels of another significant change in the service’s user experience, after the company made waves by removing all user reviews for its shows from its website last week. 

As a paying viewer, how does the idea of randomly encountering mid-stream promotional content on Netflix (or any other subscription service) strike you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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