Your next Netflix binge could feature some unexpected advertising between episodes, since the streaming giant confirmed on Monday that it is now testing showing ads for other programming available on Netflix during the seconds before a new episode of a series begins playing.
Netflix calls the ad test "surfacing recommendations" and says it is doing so to help members "discover stories they will enjoy faster," according to a statement on Monday provided to website Cord Cutters.
Not all users will see the ads and those who do have the option of skipping past when they appear. Still, with users accustomed to Netflix's ad-free viewing, there has been some backlash.
The good news is, Pop culture website ComicBook.com pointed out a trick that allows the users to completely opt out of participating in any tests or previews of new features offered by Netflix, including the ad tests.
First, users must access Netflix from either a desktop browser or tablet (if you use the Netflix smartphone app, you will be redirected to a webpage). On the Netflix site, users can go to their profile and select "Account" in a drop-down menu, then scroll to and click on "Settings." Once there, select an option titled "Test Participation," which will call up a toggle button that defaults to the "On" position, thus automatically including users in any Netflix tests and previews. Click the button (for the off position) and then click "Done" to save the new settings. Test participation will be turned off and you will be removed from any Netflix tests, including the test ads some users are seeing between episodes.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has stated his opposition to allowing outside companies to advertise on the service (aside from product placement), but Netflix has been stepping up the marketing of its own service and programming. Netflix will spend $2 billion on marketing in 2018, the company said in January, though Hastings would prefer to not spend anything to advertise Netflix programming, instead relying on the company's trove of user data to perfect its algorithm for promoting content to its users.
For its part, Netflix views its ad testing as an extension of its goal to personalize TV and film recommendations for its users. The company noted that it has introduced other features aimed at helping its users discover new content to watch on the service. "A couple of years ago, we introduced video previews to the TV experience, because we saw that it significantly cut the time members spend browsing and helped them find something they would enjoy watching even faster," a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC on Monday.
Netflix competitors Hulu charges users more money to stream ad-free content, while Amazon Prime also shows skippable ads for its own original programming before each stream. Meanwhile, Amazon-owned video game streaming service Twitch is another platform looking to bring more ads to its viewers.
Twitch Prime, the company's subscription tier that is free for Amazon Prime members, will no longer be completely ad-free as of October 15, the company said on Monday. Instead, users looking to watch video game streams without advertisements will need to upgrade to Twitch Turbo, a separate tier that costs $8.99 per month and is not included in the $12.99-per-month Amazon Prime subscription.
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