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Netflix is undeniably on the top of the pack when it comes to streaming services, and traditional broadcast networks have been steadily losing ground to the streaming giant for years. Throw in the mega deals Netflix has been closing with some of the biggest names in television, and even the launches of streaming services from the likes of Disney and DC Comics probably aren't especially daunting. Recently, however, some users noticed that one of Netflix's most attractive qualities seemed to be changing when ads began to play between episodes. Unsurprisingly, users were not happy at the prospect of dealing with ads on Netflix, and the streaming service has now clarified what's going on.
News of ads between episodes broke on Reddit, when users began sharing stories of commercials for other shows playing between episodes of shows like Better Call Saul, Rick and Morty, and Bob's Burgers. Now, if you're a Netflix subscriber based out of the United States, you may have done a double take at a couple of those shows. Neither Rick and Morty nor Bob's Burgers are available streaming on Netflix in the U.S., and soon after the reports of unskippable ads broke, Netflix clarified what was going on. Subscribers who dislike ads on streaming services like Hulu and CBS All Access don't need to panic just yet.
According to Netflix in a statement (via Cord Cutters News), the streaming service is "testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster," and notes that users are "able to skip a video preview at anytime" if they're not interested in what the footage shows. These ads aren't ads so much as previews for other Netflix options, and Netflix is currently only testing the new feature in limited markets, which explains why relatively few people have commented on Netflix ads as well as why the comments seem to come from people outside of the U.S. market. If anything, this sounds similar to what users in non-U.S. markets reported with the rumored "Ultra" option for subscribing.
In the statement, Netflix cites the video previews feature that was added back in 2016 that cut down on the time users spent browsing and enabled them to choose content right up their alley faster. The success of video previews motivated further experiments with "video based on personalized recommendations." The streaming giant conducts hundreds of tests every year; they just don't all result in an uproar.
I have to wonder if the backlash now is enough for Netflix to reconsider the preview option between episodes. Perhaps if Netflix introduces it as an option that can be turned on or off, users might be more interested in giving it a shot. Besides, the fact that the previews are skippable might help users resign themselves to the previews while binge-watching. We'll have to wait and see.