Want to Save on Streaming? Prepare for ads.

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

As the number of streaming services grows, so do the costs of subscriptions. Many viewers are searching for ways to reduce these expenses without sacrificing access to their favorite shows and movies. The solution? Ad-supported streaming tiers. Now, Amazon's Prime Video is joining the crowd. While everyone who had been subscribed to Prime Video will automatically be converted to the "with ads" plan, we thought we’d look at some other popular services that offer a less expensive tier for viewers willing to sit through the occasional commercial break for ads. Some are definitely better than others and understanding which services provide a seamless ad experience can greatly improve your streaming satisfaction while also being kind to your wallet.

Which Streaming Service Has the Best Experience with Ads?

Ad-Supported Streaming Champions

Streaming services are continuously innovating to present ads in a way that least disrupts the viewing experience while also making more money per subscriber. You'll often hear executives during earnings calls talk about "revenue per user," which has historically been just the amount of a subscription. But with the introduction of ads, streaming services are finding that they can increase that revenue by inserting more ads and finding advertisers who are willing to pay more. Finding a service that skillfully integrates ads can make a significant difference in overall satisfaction. Some platforms have become champions in this space by offering fewer ads, shorter ad lengths, or making them more relevant to the viewer.

Hulu and Disney+'s Ad Precision

Disney created its own advertising-delivery stack from the ground up, centered on the proprietary Disney Ad Server (known as DAS). The company deployed the new Disney Ad Server on [followable-link=https://thestreamable.com/video-streaming/hulu]Hulu[/followable-link in 2022 — and it’s now also powering Disney+ with ads, which launched the ad tier in 2023. Currently, the Disney Ad Server delivers some 500 million ad impressions per day. Ads on the platform are known for:

- Targeted advertising that connects with viewers' interests

- An ad-free upgrade option for those who prefer uninterrupted streaming

- An array of innovative ad formats that engage viewers

- Ads that play when you pause a show

- Ads that play in between binging episodes so that you aren't interrupted during the show

The service has been commended for an approach that feels less interruptive and more a part of the viewing experience—a delicate balance in the ad-supported streaming world. However, as you'll see below, Hulu has more ads per hour than its competition.

Peacock and Paramount+ Flexibility

Peacock and Paramount+ have two tiers, one of which has ads. The Peacock plan does include video ads that typically run between four to five minutes per hour, and the ads show up before and during a movie or TV show. Paramount, on the other hand, almost doubles the ad time (roughly 9 to 10 minutes per hour). In some movies on both, the ads run before the start of a film, which means you can watch the entire film without any more interruptions. We've grouped them together based on their similarities in price, catalog, and live TV streaming coverage, but Peacock is the winner here.

Prime Video Breadth

As of January 2024, Prime video moved all of its subscribers to a "with ads" tier. If you want to watch without ads, get ready to pony up another $2.99 per month. But when comparing to other streaming platforms, going for an ad-free tier for less than $3 more is the cheapest of the options. With Prime Video ads, you can also expect a lot less ads per hour compared to the competition too. An average hour will only provide 2 to 3 minutes of ads, all of which play before the show begins.

Prime Video also has access to Freevee, which is Amazon's free, ad-supported movies and shows. These, however, have many more ads than those on Prime Video and insert ads into a show as a commercial break moment.

HBO Max's Light Ad Load

HBO Max is renowned for maintaining a premium viewing experience, even in its ad-supported tier with a lighter load of ads compared to other streaming services. Max caps out at 4 minutes of ads per hour and has committed to a high-quality delivery with minimal interruptions. And unlike some other services, the advantage of Max is that it contains all of its catalog with the ads tier and doesn't show any ads during HBO originals.

Netflix's Display Quality

Customers of Netflix regularly see price hikes, which Netflix helped alleviate with an ads tier (despite Netflix's founder, Reed Hastings, saying that the service would never have ads). The subscription that comes with ads will cost you $6.99 per month and ads are set a 4-5 minutes. But the real kicker for Netflix's ad tier is that it starts with HD Quality streaming, an improvement other providers don't give you with their default ad tiers.

Ads Per Hour

"Ads Per Hour" is an insightful metric for gauging the ad experience on streaming platforms. A low number of ads per hour indicates a viewer-centric approach, balancing cost reduction with entertainment value. For instance, platforms known for fewer ads per hour are often touted as more user-friendly and the trade-off between ad-frequency and price can be a big factor. Viewers' tolerance for ads is crucial for finding the perfect streaming service

Here's a quick roll-up of all the streaming services we have covered from least ads to most per hour:

- Prime Video: 2-3 minutes

- Max: 4 minutes

- Peacock: 4-5 minutes

- Netflix: 4-5 minutes

- Disney+: 5 minutes

- Paramount+: 9-10 minutes

- Hulu: 9-10 minutes

Types of Ads

Knowing the types of ads that may appear during streaming can prepare you for the downgraded subscription you are looking into. For example, if you have young ones watching will they see an ad for a scary movie? Will you get blanketed by politicians trying to smear their competition during election season? How many ads for that luxury car or pharmaceutical drug will you see over and over again?

Based on our tests, Prime Video is the best at ads. That's because these ads are typically geared towards national consumer brands and are the types of ads you'd see during a major TV spot. Hulu allows for local ads, which means that you are probably going to see some political commercials in there during election years. But our worst experience was with Peacock, giving us repeat ads for Phizer's migraine medication during every ad slot available while streaming Yellowstone.

Interruptions and Fast Forwarding

Interruptions due to ads can hinder the immersive nature of streaming, but these are often the compromise for a lower subscription cost. As such, fast-forwarding through ads is restricted. And when you hit the pause or fast-forward button, you will most likely see an ad when you resume your show.

Offline Mode With Ad Tiers

If you want to download shows and movies to your device to watch on the plane, you will have to keep your ad-free subscription. This is because ad-support tiers need an internet connection to serve up commercials; watching a downloaded show without it negates the ability to make some additional revenue for the streaming service.

Number of Streams with the Ads Tier

Outside of Hulu which offers two simultaneous streams, Max, Peacock, and Paramount+ each offer three simultaneous streams. Since they all offer user profiles, that means you will be able to share it with the whole family.

Ad Tiers by Price

Now that you understand what you are getting into, the price for a downgraded subscription for a streaming service may make more sense. Here's a comparison guide to help you out:

Streaming Service:

- Amazon Prime Video: $8.99 per month | 2-3 min of ads per hour

- Disney+: $7.99 per month | 5 min of ads per hour

- Max: $9.99 per month | 4 min of ads per hour

- Hulu: $7.99 per month | 9-10 min of ads per hour

- Netflix: $6.99 per month | 4-5 min of ads per hour

- Paramount+: $5.99 per month | 9-10 min of ads per hour

- Peacock: $5.99 per month | 4-5 min of ads per hour

Note that Hulu and Disney+ can be bundled together for only $9.99 per month (an additional $2 per month than going with a single subscription). This option is called the Disney Duo Basic plan and comes with 4 simultaneous device streams too.


Streaming Smart: Mastering the Ad-Supported Scene

In the dynamic world of streaming services, choosing an ad-supported plan can be both a testament to frugality and a crafty strategy for content consumption. From Hulu's ad precision to Amazon's limited ad experience, each service presents unique offers gauged on ad frequency, viewer tolerance, and price. Consumers now have the information to curate their streaming subscriptions, balancing their budgets against their patience for ads. By considering the factors discussed—from ads per hour to offline modes—viewers can navigate the streaming world smartly, ensuring access to a vast universe of entertainment without overspending. Happy streaming!

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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