Netflix instituted its long-promised/threatened ad-supported tier this week, offering consumers the exciting chance to shave their bill down to $7 a month in exchange for selling just a bit more of their precious time on this planet, and the sacred space that lives betwixt their eyes, to the advertising gods. Thus is the circle closed; thus is the ritual of TV capitalism complete.
As it turns out, though, some of the creators who have thrown their lot in with the streamer over the last few years—sometimes in very public, big-money ways—are not entirely crazy about having the commercial break re-inserted into their creative lives. Hence a report from CNBC this weekend in which sources (nobody’s talking on record on this one, mind you, as all involved seem to be keeping the hand that’s still feeding them as far from their teeth as they can get) suggest that, say, Shonda Rhimes, for example, is not wild about Bridgerton episodes getting interrupted for ads all of a sudden.
Rhimes was a big get for Netflix a few years back, signing a multi-year, very expensive deal in 2017 to make content exclusively for the streamer. (With the biggest results so far being Bridgerton and this year’s Inventing Anna.) That deal, obviously, was signed back when Netflix was adamant about not including ads in its programming; see also the deal between Intrepid Pictures—the studio where Mike Flanagan makes all of his Netflix projects—and the streamer, which went into effect in 2019. Flanagan’s interesting, as CNBC notes, because his shows have often taken advantage of their streaming-only nature in order to play with format. (Which is to say, if you want to watch that famous tracking shot episode of Haunting Of Hill House in, well, one shot, better pony up for the ad-free tiers.)
There are a lot of little wrinkles to this topic, obviously, as various streamers figure out, on a very public stage, how they want to incorporate ads into their offerings, now that they’ve figured out there’s money in this wacky “advertising” thing. HBO Max has apparently pledged only to run ads before and after shows, for instance, refusing to break up programs with commercials. (Netflix, meanwhile, has said it has a team basically working to figure out organic breakpoints for all its series, which sounds like a massive amount of work.) And then there’s the money: Netflix has straight-up said it won’t be sharing any of this new ad revenue with the creators of the shows the commercials are running on; it’ll be interesting to see how long that stance can hold before “sources” turn into on-the-record statements of unhappiness.