In the tech world, the best thing you can do is disrupt something. Preferably, it should be an existing industry with an old-school business model that no one really likes. That’s just what Netflix did to television when it started, offering so much commercial free streaming content that TV fans started turning their backs on broadcast and even premium cable. Just a few short years later those same networks are grudgingly following Netflix’s lead and launching streaming services so that fans can tap into their content digitally. So what happens once you’ve successfully disrupted a whole industry? For Netflix it seems that you go back to business as usual, which is why the streaming platform that changed everything is now experimenting with the idea of commercials.
That groaning sound you hear is every advocate of streaming television slowly losing faith in the brave new future they imagined. Netflix is testing ads before and after some of its most watched programming. Currently they’re not advertising any third party products, just running trailers for upcoming shows like the third season of Orange is the New Black, but it’s only a matter of time.
In fairness to the fine folks at Netflix, it should be noted that the company has been sitting on a gold mine for years and has only now started tentatively digging. The cash from 23 million subscriptions is nice, but it’s nothing compared to what Netflix could potentially gain from placing ads on their content. With its targeted recommendations system growing smarter every day, Netflix could offer advertisers unprecedented accuracy in targeting their ads to the right kind of consumers. Television commercials are a dull hammer that hits everyone the same way; Netlfix ads would be more like guided missiles.
For now Netflix spokesman say that the ads are only a test. The ads have been likened to “the HBO model,” a reference to the subscription cable network that only shows ads for its own programming to paying customers and otherwise avoids third party commercials. Still, the test is an ominous sign for fans who have grown used to the hassle free viewing paradise of Netflix.
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