Google, NBCUniversal duking it out to be Netflix adtech provider

Ads are coming to Netflix, and Google and NBCUniversal are fighting for the lucrative right to provide them.

Why it’s happening. Until recently Netflix’s position as the dominant streaming service allowed it grow revenue without advertising. A subscription price increase earlier this year led to a loss of about 200,000 subscribers. The first loss in more than a decade. Despite this, Netflix says its user base continues to grow. One explanation: Password sharing. That would explain why there are fewer subscribers but more viewers


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The company is now also facing serious challenges from other streaming providers. So, even though its revenue continues to grow, it is looking to bolster them with a lower-priced, ad-supported subscription option. Bringing in Google or NBCUniversal, could make this happen much faster, though it could still be a year or more before it becomes a reality. 

The case for NBCUniversal. It’s likely that a partnership with NBCUniversal would be exclusive. Their ad unit, FreeWheel, would provide the necessary technology to deliver the ads. The NBCUniversal sales team would help to sell the ads across Europe and the US. 

The case for Google. Google brings its own ad platform, which Netflix is currently a customer of. An agreement with Google could mean an exclusive arrangement, but it hasn’t been confirmed. 

Both competitors are currently working with other large brands. A potential deal with Netflix could mean sharing access to its tech partners and audiences. NBCUniversal is the exclusive reseller of ads for Apple News and Apple Stocks since 2017 and has recently expanded into the UK. Google had been providing ad service to the Walt Disney Co. (a previous FreeWheel customer and current Netflix competitor) since 2018.

What Netflix is saying. Netflix hasn’t provided any details of its plans, how many ads will run, ad targeting, or reach. 

Read the announcement. You can read the article from the Wall Street Journal here.

Why we care. From outside, Netflix’s subscription price increase, the fourth since 2018, seems an odd choice. It was announced at the end of January when inflation was already a growing concern for consumers. Also, viewers were already complaining about decreasing quality in new content while old favorites were no longer available. People are cutting spending and may turn to one of the emerging high-quality, lower-cost competitors.

Those competitors are also either ad-free or offer an ad-free version at a low cost. So an ad-supported Netflix tier may not be all that appealing. It’s rash to second guess a company as successful as Netflix, but this doesn’t seem to be a well-thought-out plan.

Read next: Why we care about adtech: The complete guide


About The Author

Nicole Farley is an editor for Search Engine Land covering all things PPC. In addition to being a Marine Corps veteran, she has an extensive background in digital marketing, an MBA and a penchant for true crime, podcasts, travel, and snacks.


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