Over the past few years there’s been a surge of subscription-based audio and video streaming. The primary reason consumers are willing to take their credit cards out to pay for entertainment which could otherwise be free is the allure of an ad-free environment. With very few exceptions the basic paradigm is either to get free entertainment in an ad-supported environment or pay for it and go ad free.
While that sounds simple enough, there’s a growing trend of streaming platforms inserting paid product placements within their content, which effectively allows them to double dip by charging brands to be featured on shows consumers are paying to watch ad-free. Hulu is one of the more aggressive streamers in this department, with a stand-alone brand integration team whose sole purpose is to sign brands on for product placement deals. To date they’ve worked with Hotels.com, Coors Light, Toyota and Amazon Alexa, to name a few. Other video streamers such as Netflix and Viacom are also starting to test product placement as an accretive revenue stream.
For brands product placement can be a good thing, as long as their product is worked in organically and doesn’t feel forced. However, consumers are the ones who might be getting played with this trend, because the ad-free shows they think they’re paying for might not actually be ad-free after all.