Cable subscribers have grown used to seeing advertising alongside the programming they view, even though they’re paying for the subscription, but with streaming, viewers are much more sensitive. Ad-supported streaming services do exist — Crackle for example — but even with services that allow next-day viewing of popular shows, users are wary of advertising on a service they pay for monthly.
Now some users fear that Netflix could be the next subscription streaming service to bring ads into the fold. Late last month, some viewers began seeing teaser trailers for content available on Netflix play automatically, sometimes as soon as they opened the app, as Cord Cutters News was first to spot.
Silent trailers have been part of the Netflix experience for some time now, but these new teaser trailers included audio. So far the trailers have been for both Netflix originals like the upcoming Fuller House as well as content licensed from other sources.
While reports were sporadic at first, Netflix has confirmed that it is currently testing out this new type of teaser. “Some members in a limited test now see teasers with audio as they browse,” a Netflix spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We learn by testing and these features may or may not become part of the Netflix experience.”
Technically the teaser trailers being show to users aren’t ads, at least in the traditional sense. Netflix seems to be showing these to promote its original content, ostensibly to users whose watching preferences show they might like what they’re being shown. Netflix could theoretically use these spots to show content from advertisers, but it likely wouldn’t be worth alienating their subscriber base.
Whether or not the new trailers technically count as ads, many users aren’t happy, and some took to Twitter to call Netflix out publicly. The number of tweets regarding the teaser trailers seems to have dwindled over the past few days, so it’s possible that Netflix is being less aggressive in showing them.
This could be a result of the backlash, but it’s worth restating that these teaser trailers aren’t official yet. The company could simply be experimenting with how often it shows trailers and what it shows to different types of users.
These steps likely aren’t the last we’ll see when it comes to Netflix promoting its original content. The streaming service has doubled down on its efforts with original programming, and it will certainly keep doing whatever it can to remind viewers that they can’t get those movies and shows anywhere else.