A recent Deloitte study found that 55 percent of American households subscribe to a video streaming service, up from 49 percent last year. As the cord-cutting trend continues, competition for customers grows in the increasingly crowded market, especially with Disney preparing to enter the streaming space with its own service.
After hitting a record stock price in early July, Netflix has seen its stock price pressured since its last earnings report that showed a stall in U.S. subscriber growth. It added half the number of domestic subscribers as estimated by analysts in the most recent quarter, and had a much smaller miss of subscriber expectations overseas.
Hulu, one of the Netflix's biggest rivals, offers a "limited" commercial subscription that can be upgraded to an ad-free tier. Hulu's CEO Randy Freer recently poked fun at the amount of money being spent by Netflix on original content, telling CNBC, "I think money is a relative term. I think it's how you spend that is really important. We are not going to make 800 shows next year, we'll probably make 20 or 25."
Amazon's Prime Video, available as part of the company's Prime membership or as a separate subscription, runs commercials for its own programming. Alphabet's YouTube Premium, formerly YouTube Red, provides an ad-free experience for both YouTube's original programming and other videos.
When Hub asked about interest in a hypothetical new subscription service to replace or add to current services, 48 percent of respondents said a no-ads feature would make it a lot more appealing — it was the most of any feature asked about.
For services such as the longstanding free version of YouTube, ads are largely unavoidable. But if Netflix permanently implements commercials for its already paying subscribers, the consequences for the streaming giant could be significant.
"Hulu had advertisements from the beginning and Netflix has always been ad-free," Giegengack said. "People always feel it more if you take away something that has been there and they're accustomed to."
Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com. Comcast is also a co-owner of Hulu.