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Netflix saved the average viewer from 219 hours of ads in 2019

Published May 13th, 2020 7:10PM EDT
Netflix vs. TV
Image: AhmadDanialZulhilmi/Shutterstock

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  • Netflix saves subscribers from watching hundreds of hours of commercials every year.
  • Data shows that every hour of network or cable programming includes up to 18 minutes of ads, and Americans spend close to 4 hours a day watching TV.
  • The average Netflix subscriber spends two hours a day on the service (and likely even more during the pandemic), avoiding 219 hours of commercials over the course of a year.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Streaming services have taken on a new significance in the age of the novel coronavirus pandemic. One of the best ways that we can stop the spread of this virus is by staying home, but keeping ourselves entertained while couped up for weeks on end can be challenging. Therefore, streaming service usage has skyrocketed in recent weeks, but of the plethora of options available, Netflix has a major advantage over many of its rivals: No ads.

Many streaming services have tiers that include ads, but no matter how much you pay for Netflix, you will never see a commercial while watching Stranger Things, Ozark, or Extraction. With all of that in mind, did the math and attempted to quantify the amount of time Netflix saves its viewers from ads every year.

As we have discussed in previous stories, Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland revealed in 2019 that the average Netflix user spends two hours a day on the service. Although data (and common sense) would suggest that number is likely higher in 2020, let’s stick with two hours a day. Meanwhile, recent reports have said that the average hour of network or cable TV can feature anywhere from 12 to 18 minutes of commercials, and decided to take the higher end of that estimation for its Netflix ad-saving equation.

As for the final piece of the equation, recent data shows that Americans spend close to four hours a day watching TV. If you do spend four hours a day watching network or cable TV, you’re going to see more than an hour of commercials every single day, and around eight hours of commercials every week.

If you compare the time people spend watching TV to the amount of time they spend streaming, Netflix is saving the average subscriber from 219 hours — more than nine full days — of commercials every year.

Even if you adjust the numbers to reflect different studies or reports, it’s astounding to think about just how much time we spend watching commercials for products and services we probably won’t ever consider buying. Unless there are sports on, I rarely turn on live TV anymore, but when I do, I’m always shocked at how many commercial breaks I have to sit through to watch a single hour-long episode of a show. It’s no wonder that cord-cutting has taken off in recent years, and it seems like the pandemic is only speeding up the process.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.