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Customers slightly more satisfied with ad-free options, survey reveals

HBO Max had the highest customer satisfaction rating out of five streaming services, according to a Whip Media survey released this month. (Graphic by The Desk)

Customers who subscribe to commercial-free tiers of major streaming services are more likely to be satisfied compared to customers who choose cheaper, ad-free options, according to a new survey.

The survey, published by analytics firm Whip Media earlier this month, found the gap in customer satisfaction between commercial-free and ad-supported tiers of service was relatively narrow, with rates of satisfaction largely depending on the streaming service itself.

According to the survey, the streaming service with the highest customer satisfaction rate is Warner Bros Discovery’s HBO Max, with 95 percent approving of its commercial-free tier and 92 percent satisfied with its cheaper, ad-supported option.

The difference between both tiers of service is negligible: Both the ad-supported and commercial-free version of HBO Max offers much of the same content, with the ad-free version once allowing streamers access to same-day theatrical releases of Warner Bros movies (the service has since walked back this perk). HBO programming on both tiers of service doesn’t include advertisements, but content from other Warner Bros properties like Cartoon Network or CNN along with shows and movies licensed from third-party distributors does contain a limited amount of commercials.

Interestingly, both tiers of service ranked higher in customer satisfaction than it closets competitor, the Walt Disney Company’s general entertainment service Hulu, with 91 percent of subscribers satisfied with the ad-free option compared to 84 percent who were satisfied with Hulu’s more-popular commercial-supported option.

Analysts with Whip Media said the margin between Hulu’s ad-free option and HBO Max’s commercial-free tier was only 4 points, the closest gap among any of the services.

A chart reveals customer satisfaction among five premium streaming services, as reported by analytics firm Whip Media.
A chart reveals customer satisfaction among five premium streaming services, as reported by analytics firm Whip Media. (Image courtesy Whip Media; inverted graphic by The Desk)

Paramount Global’s Paramount Plus, Comcast’s Peacock and Warner Bros Discovery’s Discovery Plus were also ranked in the survey. Across all five services, customers who opted for the ad-free tiers of each were more satisfied compared to customers who chose the ad-supported options.

But the margin between both tiers of service was not significant. Customers of Peacock had the highest margin of satisfaction between the ad-free and ad-supported tier, with 7 points difference. There, 75 percent of Peacock Premium Plus subscribers were happy with the service, while just 67 percent of customers who opted for one of Peacock’s two ad-supported tiers were satisfied, Whip Media reported.

The survey could prove to be prescient for Netflix, the biggest streaming service in the world, as that company develops an ad-supported version of its product in order to offer a cheaper subscription plan to television viewers.

Data collated from Whip Media showed most Netflix subscribers are unlikely to switch from the current ad-free tier — which starts at $10 a month and goes up to $20 a month, depending on features — with 72 percent of respondents saying they’re unlikely or very unlikely to take advantage of a cheaper, ad-supported offering.

That will probably sit just fine with executives at the service, who suggest the forthcoming ad-supported version of Netflix is meant to entice new and former customers with a lower-cost option.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).