Netflix's Interesting Ad Model
Plus: Ron Howard, assigned!
A couple weeks back, I noted my genuine surprise at the number of people who have the ad-supported tier of Hulu as well as the surging popularity of ad-supported services like Tubi, which may or may not be a gray-market piracy site. (It isn’t, I’m joking, but still: quality control is an issue on the service.)
A relatively pleasing part of the future as we’ve experienced it has been the reduction in the number of advertisements we’re served. From the rise of HBO to the introduction of DVRs to the dominance of Netflix, it looked like the long arc of history bent away from forcing us to watch come-ons for stuff we don’t want. I don’t know that this makes up for the lack of flying cars, but still: things were getting better!
However, a combination of lower subscription costs and nostalgia for built-in bathroom breaks has led to a resurgence in people choosing to watch ads. Netflix announced their plan to get into the advertising game and has accelerated their plans to beat competitor Disney+ to the market. What’s interesting about the Netflix news is what Variety says they aren’t planning on doing for their advertisers:
Initially, Netflix’s ad-supported service will not have any third-party attribution. It also will have limited targeting ability: Advertisers will be able to buy against Netflix’s top 10 most-viewed TV series and against some content genres. But for the first phase of the ad tier’s rollout, Netflix will not serve ads based on geography (except by country), age, gender, viewing behavior or time of day.
On top of that, Netflix is looking out for customers by trying to restrict the most aggravating part of advertising: repetition. “Netflix is setting frequency caps (how often an ad spot may be served to individual viewers) of one per hour and three per day per viewer, which are relatively low by industry standards,” Variety reports.
As someone who avoids ad-based television at all costs, I’ll say that repetition is a big reason why: there’s nothing quite as annoying as getting served up the same three thirty-second spots six times in a one-hour program, which is what it felt like was happening every time I watched the last season of Better Call Saul on the ad-supported AMC app. The disruption in the show was annoying, but getting bludgeoned by the same thing over and over was killer.
Of course, repetition is the whole point of advertising. The Mad Men preach repetition because repetition makes the heart grow fonder: the average consumer needs to see an ad for something at least seven times before they’ll even consider purchasing that something. Whether or not that remains true in today’s marketplace writ large, it certainly remains true on the Google ads I get served up: some marketer somewhere is convinced that one of these days I’m finally going to snap and drop $5,500 on that oven I Googled once.
And what are advertisers expected to pay for the privilege of not bludgeoning viewers, not being able to target geographically, not being able to sell to age groups, and not being able to pick between women and men? Oh, roughly three times the industry average: $65 per thousand viewers.
What a steal!
One of the great unsung stories of the last few years is the ascendancy of anime purveyor Crunchyroll and the company’s ability to not only get movies in theaters but also to activate their base and get folks to show up even on slower weekends. I had a great time talking to Crunchyroll’s Mitchel Berger about how the distributor turned Dragon Ball into a bankable movie franchise.
Speaking of interesting distribution models: Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington’s HEI Network is fascinating to me. The move from Adult Swim to a more independently operated distribution model gives them more freedom and allows people to support them directly, which can lead to all sorts of odd outcomes. Like, say, the film Deck of Cards. Which looks to be about as odd and entertaining as everything else from the On Cinema Expanded Universe.
This week I reviewed Thirteen Lives and Samaritan, two movies that have nothing in common, really, aside from being MGM refugees dumped onto Prime Video. One of these movies really deserved a proper theatrical release. But which one?
Well, uh, if you listened to Across the Movie Aisle this week, you probably have some idea. We talked about Samaritan, as well as all the drama swirling about Don’t Worry Darling. And in our special members-only episode we asked if critics and audiences are really getting further apart on blockbusters. The answer is: “Maybe?”
Shay Khatiri wrote about the CBS sitcom Ghosts, a fun little show with a surprising depth to it.
On the one hand: This summer featured almost no flops at the box office! (Though there are a few, like Nope, that clearly under-performed.) On the other hand: That’s because there’s been a real paucity of releases. On the other hand: It might not be the worst thing in the world for there to be fewer tentpoles and more mid-budget, star-driven pictures.
Assigned Viewing: Apollo 13 (AMC+)
In the wake of Thirteen Lives, I was going to assign my favorite Ron Howard movie, Parenthood, but it’s only available for rental. So you’ll have to do with Apollo 13, which recommends itself. But it did get me thinking about the impressive variety of Howard’s career: Parenthood is a wonderful family dramedy, made just a few years after the fantasy epic Willow, and just a few years before the pulse-pounding Apollo 13. A Beautiful Mind is a fantastic biopic with a surprising mid-film twist, while Cinderella Man is a perpetually underrated sports drama. He doesn’t always nail it—Hillbilly Elegy is kind of a mess, and The Da Vinci Code and its sequel … well, they don’t work—but when he does, the result is great.
Ron Howard is a good director in the sense that he has an exceptional understanding of the craftsmanship of making a movie. As you mention some hit better than others, but his best films are pretty fantastic. Who else can do Ransom and The Dilema? Who else is willing to try?
Re Netflix: As one who used to run ABC-TV Daytime Sales Proposals, I can testify that you can charge anything you want... and buyers can decide to go elsewhere. And after the market moves and you are stuck with unsaleable merchandise and no one to buy it, you will be fired. In the end, it is, if you'll pardon the expression, a market.