With the increasing number of streaming services offering ad-supported tiers, you might be curious how much time you’re wasting on ads with the less-than-premium streaming packages. Here’s a breakdown.

Streaming With Ads Is Still Better Than TV

Before we look at ads on streaming services, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that while the creep of advertising into the previously almost entirely advertising-free world of streaming is not a great sign, it’s nowhere near as bad as regular broadcast and cable television.

The ratio of actual content to advertisements on regular television is skewed heavily toward advertising. In the average hour of regular television, there are around 18-23 minutes of advertisements. For every hour of TV, you’re wasting around 35% of the hour consuming ads. It’s really no wonder people enjoy streaming services more. Given that the average American watches 3 hours of television a day, if you remove the ads you get an entire extra hour of content time.

Thirty-minute TV shows, for example, are actually around 22 minutes long to account for ad time. That means if you watch a series on regular TV, you get two episodes per hour plus all the ad time. If you watch the same show on a streaming service with no ads, you can fit almost three complete episodes into each hour.

Streaming Services Are Starting Small (For Now)

There has been a significant rise in the number of streaming services offering ad-supported service tiers. These tiers feature a discounted rate—$7.99 for Hulu with ads, versus $14.99 for Hulu premium, for example—in exchange for inserting ad rolls into your shows and movies.

The industry average for ad-supported tiers is 4 minutes of advertising per hour of content—there’s definitely an industry aversion to making consumers say, “This is just as bad as regular TV.” It varies slightly between providers but not by much. Peacock, for example, has 2-4 minutes of advertising, with many viewing sessions skewing towards 2 minutes. Disney+ averages around 4 minutes per hour.

Depending on what you’re watching on Hulu, ad time ranges from 2 to 5 minutes or so. If you’re using their Basic ad-supported plan, Netflix averages 4-5 minutes of advertisements.

However, you cut it, though, a 4-minute average is significantly lower than the 18-23 minutes you find on regular television. You’ll only lose about 7% of each hour to advertisements instead of 35%.

Fewer advertisements or not, it’s worth factoring that into your decision to use the ad-support tier or upgrade. If you’re watching Hulu for two hours a day on average, for example, over the course of a month, you’ll have watched around four hours of advertisements.

If the difference between squeezing a streaming subscription into your budget or not is $7, then maybe you’re willing to put up with four hours of advertisements. But if an extra $7 a month isn’t going to cramp your budget, you might want to ask yourself if getting four hours of time back (and four hours of content in the process) is worth spending $7 extra.

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Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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