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We Can All Agree That Previews Are Ads, Even If Streaming Services Don’t Think So

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Most people will probably agree that previews shown by streaming services before the start of a video are ads. After all, they are advertisements. However, this is something that many of the most popular streaming services seem to totally disagree with the rest of us on. Instead, they appear to take the stance that if they weren’t paid for, they are not ads.

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Ads are inescapable while watching live TV, and that’s just something consumers need to be okay with. Likewise, and annoying as they are, repetitive ads is another aspect we are all slowly getting more use to seeing when streaming, and especially when using free streaming services. However, paid streaming services with access to on-demand movies and shows are completely different.

In return for a monthly fee, these services provide access to videos that are available to watch at any time. In the majority of cases, subscribers can choose to watch with or without ads thanks to the use of a multi-tiered subscription. To name a few, Discovery Plus, HBO Max, Hulu Peacock, and Paramount Plus all offer ad-supported and ad-free tiers. In fact, even Disney Plus and Netflix have gotten in on the ad action in recent weeks.

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Getting back to the issue at hand, and it would seem that many of these services view ads differently to their subscribers, and especially those paying for an ad-free viewing experience. You don’t have to go too far to find a forum or social media post noting the issue, and not without good reason. This Reddit post might be more than a year old now, but it perfectly highlights the frustration felt by consumers who have paid for an ad-free viewing experience only to still end up seeing ads previews for that service.

The reason for this is that many streaming services differentiate previews from ads. For example, Paramount Plus makes clear that Premium subscribers will see “short previewsin spite of being on an ad-free plan. Paramount Plus also seems to be aware that some subscribers might take issue with this considering it also explains that previews won’t “appear more than once a day prior to the start of one show.”

HBO Max makes equally clear that it also views previews as different to ads, even though they are advertisements. In HBO Max’s case, previews are officially referred to as “promotional trailers.” In its attempt to ensure subscribers aren’t totally unhappy with seeing previews, there is the option to manually skip them, similar to how intros and recaps before the start of a video can be skipped.

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Paramount Plus and HBO Max are not the only ones either. Many services that offer ad-free tiers commonly show previews for their own content. Of course, these are designed to be informative, and many subscribers will actually benefit by becoming aware of shows or movies that they might not otherwise know about. Discovery Plus makes this exact point by explaining ad-free subscribers might still see “promotional spots from discovery+ that are meant to inform you about new shows, episodes, or features you might be interested in.”

Regardless of their usefulness, or what a streaming service calls them, it is hard to escape the fact that they are still adverts and something that subscribers paying for an ad-free viewing experience will take issue with. What’s also likely to further frustrate some is the lack of consistency across platforms. For example, limiting their use on Paramount Plus versus a skip button on HBO Max. If services were more in line with each other and offered a similar user experience for previews, consumers would at least be better prepared regardless of which service they are using at the time.

For now, none of this looks likely to change anytime soon. As long as streaming services continue to view these interruptions as previews and not ads, they will continue to be shown before the start of a video. After all, subscribers are paying for an ad-free viewing experience, not a preview-free one.

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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been editing and writing about technology and streaming for online publications since 2014, and believes the best streaming approach is to rotate between services as needed.

John's preferred live TV streaming service right now is YouTube TV although he does tend to switch live TV services multiple times each year to keep up to date with their changes. Outside of live TV, John also actively streams HBO Max (for the shows), Peacock (for Premier League), and Paramount Plus (for Champion's League). However, John is also currently subscribed to Apple TV+, Discovery+, Hulu, Starz, Showtime, and Shudder.

Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or say hi on Twitter

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