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Disney Plus ad tier details leaked: Only 4 minutes of commercials per hour

Published May 18th, 2022 7:31AM EDT
Disney Plus Star
Image: Disney

Reports said a few months ago that Disney is studying an ad tier subscription for its Disney Plus streaming service, without disclosing any details about the subscription option. But that was an indication that, unlike Netflix, Disney is looking to reduce prices and ensure more people keep paying a subscription, even if that means incorporating ads into the experience.

Disney did not say how expensive the ad tier version of Disney Plus would be or when it’ll launch. But we finally have the first details about the new subscription offer. Disney will show only 4 minutes of commercials per hour.

Do we need ad tiers in streaming services?

Getting ads on a streaming service seems counterintuitive to what you’re trying to achieve. Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other streaming options are alternatives to cable TV, which is flooded with ads. Moreover, you’re paying for the content and the break from ads.

Disney Plus started as an incredibly affordable option, especially if you got the multi-year deal. But Disney has increased the subscription price since then. And while the company is still adding millions of subscribers each quarter, with plans to expand to more regions this summer, Disney must have seen what roadblocks lie ahead when it comes to acquiring and holding on to subscribers.

Netflix is having trouble keeping subscribers, and the service is already more expensive than other options. The streamer seems more interested in charging more for sharing passwords rather than introducing an ad tier to make the subscription more affordable. But Netflix is also looking at bringing ads to its platform.

On the other hand, Disney already operates a streaming service with ads. Therefore, it already has the technology and partnerships to bring an ad tier to Disney Plus.

Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres on Disney Plus on May 25th.
Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres on Disney Plus on May 25th. Image source: Disney

How much will Disney Plus with ads cost?

The ad-supported version of Hulu is $6.99/month, $1 cheaper than Disney Plus. Hulu (No Ads) costs $12.99 per month. That doesn’t mean that Disney will replicate that model. But it’s not like the company has shared any official details about the Disney Plus ad tier.

However, Variety and The Wall Street Journal have learned more details about the type of ads Disney will show on Disney Plus and the duration of commercial breaks.

If these reports are accurate, we’re looking at good news for the overall user experience. Disney will run up to 4 minutes of ads per hour, which isn’t a big deal. You’d take breaks while watching movies and TV shows at home, so 4 minutes of interruptions every hour shouldn’t ruin your binging. Comparatively, Hulu shows ads for nearly twice as much time. And traditional TV offers 18 to 23 minutes of ads every hour.

More interesting is Disney’s tight control over the actual ads that will appear on the platform. The company will not show commercials for alcohol or politics on the Disney Plus ad tier. Moreover, it will not serve ads alongside shows targeting a pre-school audience. Or when the user profile indicates a young child is watching. That all sounds promising, especially to parents.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a scene from the Disney+ documentary Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a scene from the Disney+ documentary “Fauci.” Image source: National Geographic for Disney+/Visko Hatfield

When will Disney Plus with ads launch?

Moreover, Disney’s ad sales and partnership president told The Journal that it doesn’t plan to “collect data on individual kids to target them.”

Finally, the Disney Plus ad tier will not show commercials for rival platforms. But that should be the least of your worries.

Neither report mentions a release date for the Disney Plus ad tier. The service will expand to multiple markets come mid-June. But there’s no telling when the ad-supported version will become available and in what markets.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.