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Netflix has been a boon to television lovers. If you miss an entire season of a show, you can easily catch up in one weekend on the streaming service, without having to buy expensive DVD sets or troll your local library for a copy. Another benefit, of course, is the lack of ads of any kind being attached to our favorite shows. With Netflix you can binge completely uninhibited on all the TV you want. Now, though, it looks like that might be starting to change.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney (as parent company to ABC) has convinced Netflix to put a pre-roll title boasting a shot of star Viola Davis with the ABC logo before How to Get Away with Murder episodes play on the streaming network. They’ve also arranged for other Disney owned titles to get a similar treatment prior to shows playing.
For the average Netflix subscriber, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. The promo only lasts for four brief seconds, after all, and even when you add up a whole weekend of gorging on Disney shows via the service, that won’t take up much of your viewing time. The real impact of this move is in the future of Netflix and their relationship with the other companies it partners with in order for us to have unlimited viewing of shows like Sons of Anarchy and Reign.
Netflix’s unwillingness to allow this sort of promotional effort on its streaming shows is notorious within the TV industry. They were against networks being able to remind customers where a show originated. So, if you were watching Gilmore Girls without ever having seen the show before, you wouldn’t be able to tell from Netflix that it aired on the CW.
As can be expected, networks don’t really like it when people can’t tell which shows are theirs. The industry complaint has been that any show directly from Netflix, like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, was immediately identified as a “Netflix Original” before starting. Now that this door has to promotions has been opened, it’s not unlikely that Netflix will begin to allow those other companies to have similar ads attached to their programming. As it is, they’ve begun to show network logos on some of the title cards for the shows they carry.
So, why the changes? It’s a simple content and money issue. Netflix is seeing more and more competition in the streaming field, with services like Hulu and Amazon, not to mention the current rise in network based streaming services. Even though some of these other platforms include promos, there’s still the issue of viewers having somewhere else to go to see their favorite content. Plus, Hulu and network based services offer episodes of current seasons the day after they air, as opposed to waiting until a whole season has completed to add the episodes. If people begin to opt out of Netflix because they can get more of those favorites somewhere else (and quicker), the service that started the streaming boom may fall behind.
I have a feeling pressure from the networks will eventually give us more here’s-where-we-got-this-show ads from Netflix. But as long as they’re kept to a minimum, I don’t think most people will mind. Right now, Netflix is still the best game in town for catching up on several seasons of a show. And that probably won’t end any time soon.