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Reaching Elusive Ad-Free Streamers

June 15, 2021

By Hadassa Gerber


Reaching ad-free streaming viewers is the latest challenge for marketers with carefully crafted television campaigns.

The combination of a pandemic that forced many Americans to stay home and the introduction of several new subscription video on demand (SVOD) services in addition to existing services (Netflix, Amazon and Hulu), has provided the perfect catalyst for SVOD growth. But not all of this growth has worked in the favor of marketers and advertisers, as the most popular services are ad-free.

The 2021 GfK Media Comparisons Study examined the daily media usage of over 20 media platforms during the pandemic — from mid to late November 2020. Among the media surveyed, the study included streaming programs and movies on both a TV screen and on digital devices (computer, tablet and smartphones). It also differentiated streamers who view on ad-free platforms and ad-supported platforms, enabling an analysis of the media habits of ad-free streamers. The study found that 42 percent of adult respondents 18 and older streamed programming on platforms without advertising. That number goes up to 59 percent for car buyers and 61 percent for parents. Interesting statistics, but a quandary for marketers and advertisers because these consumers are not reachable on ad-free SVOD platforms.


How Does an Advertiser Reach Ad-Free Streamers?

Do these streamers use other media in addition to ad-free streaming? If so, do those platforms carry advertising?

Fortunately for advertisers the answer is yes on both counts. For example, social media reached 73 percent of adult 18 and older ad-free streamers and online search reached 68 percent. Although high, these are not the highest reach vehicles for ad-free streamers.

It may come as a surprise to some that the highest reach for ad-free streamers is linear television (broadcast TV and cable at a combined 83.2 percent), with broadcast TV alone reaching 82.7 percent. (Cable only adds half of a reach point). Combine broadcast TV websites/apps with the high impact of broadcast TV, and advertisers have the ability to reach 88 percent of ad-free streamers. For car buyers that stream ad-free, these broadcast assets can reach 95 percent of them! For ad-free streamer parents, broadcast assets can reach 93 percent.


Time Spent Is a Key Barometer of Engagement

A key measure of engagement is the amount of time people are willing to invest in a media platform.

GfK survey respondents that spent even one minute with a platform were included in reach number results. Do ad-free streamers spend more time streaming than the average adult 18 and older? Absolutely, more than twice the amount of time. Do they spend less time viewing linear TV? Yes, they do, nine percent less time. But they still spend considerably more time with linear TV (five hours and 14 minutes) than any other platform. In contrast to TV, the total time they spend on social media (on a computer, tablet and smartphone) is one hour and 26 minutes and 50 minutes with online search.


Trusted Media Provide Superior Advertising Environments

In today’s uncertain and sometimes confusing world a trusted news platform can provide a significant and appreciable difference to its viewers as well as its advertisers. What platforms do ad-free streamers trust? Seventy-seven percent of respondents trusted local TV news, the highest level of trust among all the platforms. In second place were local newspapers at 73 percent and in third place local broadcast TV websites/apps (71 percent). Only 63 percent trusted cable news and social media was the least trusted at 40 percent. People may use social media, as evidenced by its reach, but they do not necessarily trust the news they see or hear on social media.


How Can Marketers Maximize Their Campaign Messaging and Reach Ad-Free TV Viewers?

It remains to be seen whether SVOD will continue its rate of growth as a vaccinated population returns to a more normal lifestyle. Regardless of the extent of growth, it is a sure bet that a considerable amount of audience will remain who cannot be reached by advertisers on SVOD ad-free platforms. Fortunately for marketers, the GfK Media Comparisons Study found there is a way to connect with this elusive target on a large scale and in a trusted environment. Marketers and advertisers merely have to harness the power of broadcast TV and broadcast TV websites and apps to reach the majority of non-ad streamers.

Hadassa Gerber is chief research officer at TVB.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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