Netflix has confirmed a major change to its video-streaming service, effective as of this week for at least some users: video ads for other Netflix series between episodes.
The news emerged via user reports, particularly on the primary Netflix Reddit community, in which users claimed that ads for entirely different series would play between episodes of a given show's binging. One initial claim said that "unskippable" ads for the AMC series Better Call Saul appeared between episodes of Rick & Morty, and that this ad appeared while using Netflix's smart TV app on an LG set in the UK. Replies to that thread included an allegation that a video ad for I Am A Killer (a Netflix-produced true-crime series) appeared between episodes of the animated comedy Bob's Burgers.
An American Netflix user offered more details for exactly how the ads appear:
After the episode ended, I got a screen saying "More Shameless up next…" then the title card slid off screen, and it continued with, "but first check out Insatiable" [a Netflix-exclusive series] and started playing the trailer.
In a statement given to Ars Technica, Netflix described the change as follows: "We are testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster." The reasoning, Netflix's statement says, comes from its last controversial decision: to add auto-playing videos, complete with unmuteable audio, while browsing through Netflix content.
Netflix offered one major rebuttal to at least one Reddit claim, pointing out that the ads for Netflix content are entirely skippable.
"A couple of years ago, we introduced video previews to the TV experience, because we saw that it significantly cut the time members spend browsing and helped them find something they would enjoy watching even faster," Netflix's statement says. Netflix did not confirm to Ars whether this new advertising initiative would be limited to specific platforms (smart TVs, game consoles, etc.) or territories, nor how long this "testing" period might last.
Additionally, a Netflix spokesperson clarified to Ars that the term "test" is key, as it indicates that these ads (which the company emphasizes will only be for Netflix content, not outside products or content) will, at least for now, appear for a "segment" of Netflix's userbase, as opposed to all users.
In response to recent outcry at Reddit's Netflix community, which has largely been negative, Netflix's spokesperson indicated to Ars that the company was mindful of "chatter on social channels" but is focused far more squarely on how users interact with these new video ads. In other words, if users engage with these promotions, Netflix will likely roll them out to many more users. (The company's statement about "video previews" appears to indicate that user data drove those clips' spread across all platforms and devices.)