Ad-Free Media Experience: Is It Worth the Cost?

Ad costs

Are you watching Grey’s Anatomy this Thursday night? If you’re a die-hard TGIT fan, you may just stick around ABC all night to catch Scandal at 9 and How to Get Away with Murder at 10. Put yourself in a marketer’s shoes for a moment: these shows draw the attention of millions of viewers every week, creating invaluable ad exposure for anyone willing to write a decently sized check. To air one 30-second commercial during each show would cost you a small fortune of $635,048, according to a survey by Ad Age.

Ad costs

Or maybe you’re one of those people who hate television ads so much that you’ve given up primetime TV altogether. You pay your monthly subscription to Netflix and wait a full year after these primetime shows air for full seasons to be uploaded ad-free for online streaming. That $7.99 monthly bill is so worth it, right? Why can’t everything be so easy?

In a recent edition of Advertising Age, marketing experts explored the idea of answering everyone’s prayers for an ad-free media experience, from web browsing to TV to social networks. If you’re willing to pay a monthly fee for ad-free shows and movies, are you willing to pay the cost for everything else?

According to Interactive Advertising Bureau President-CEO Randall Rothenberg, at least 34% of all U.S. adults use ad blockers already, and with Apple’s recent decision to support iOS apps that block ads within its Safari web browser, that number is subject to increase drastically. “Some websites, particularly those with millennial audiences, are already losing up to 40% of their ad revenue because of ad blocking,” he says. eMarketer reported that marketers are expected to spend $189 billion on advertising in the U.S. this year. How much of their ad budget will go to waste, and will companies start charging for their content to compensate for the loss?

Ad Age explored this possibility: how much would we be charged for the services we take for granted every day if media companies could no longer collect ad revenue to offset costs?

reading news on ipadNew York Times:
 If the New York Times Company served up the news on digital-only, not in print, forsaking all ads, digital subscriptions would jump from $195 per year to $334 per year.

Television: Channels and services like HBO and Hulu already deliver this ad-free experience, so using their 50% premium as a model, a single channel like CBS might cost $8.99 per month, or about $107 per year. With those numbers, the average American family wouldn’t be able to afford the current 500-channel suite that has become our norm, so Ad Age rounds down to $1,200 per month for basic cable, about a dozen ad-free channels, including CSPAN and CSPAN2.

Facebook: The social network recently reported that it had 1.49 billion monthly active users, 450 million of which are outside the U.S. and Canada, presenting a problem for collecting monthly payments in places like developing countries. So we can assume that those users won’t be paying a monthly fee for ad-free social media. An assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina wrote in the Times, “If even a quarter of Facebook’s 1.5 billion users were willing to pay $1 per month in return for not being tracked or targeted based on their data, that would yield more than $4 billion per year.” So, Facebook would cost us about $12 per year.


Buzzfeed: In May, ComScore placed Buzzfeed at Number 26 on its list of the top 50 multi-platform media properties. But, would you pay money to read articles like “Who Should You Date, Based on Your Netflix Choices?” Probably not. An ad-free world is a Buzzfeed-free world.

So, is an ad-free experience worth it to you, or are you willing to sit through a couple minutes of commercials in between segments of Scandal?

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