How to Figure Out If It’s Worth Paying to Get Rid of Ads

How to Figure Out If It’s Worth Paying to Get Rid of Ads
Photo: Diego Cervo, Shutterstock

People seem to be split down the middle on ad-supported TV streaming — 49% of subscribers saying they were “very satisfied” with it in a recent survey, while 54% of those same respondents say they plan to switch to ad-free tiers of TV streaming in the “next 2-3 months.” That suggests many of us are still making up our minds about whether spending a few extra bucks each month to ditch the ads once and for all is worth it — so how can you decide which way to go?

Compare your tolerance for streaming ads to cable TV

A good starting point is to look at cable TV, which has 12 minutes of ads per hour, on average. Considering that basic cable is often in the $US45 ($61) to $US130 ($176) range, you’re already spending more on a higher rate of ad exposure compared to ad-supported streaming TV, which runs about about 5-10 minutes of ads per hour. Here’s a look at how some of the major services compare:

  • Hulu Basic is $US5 ($7)/month and has the highest ad rate of the services listed here, with about 10 minutes of ads per hour of streaming content. It’s less ads than cable TV, but it still might be annoying to have unskippable ads ten times during a feature length movie. On the plus side, Hulu has a deep catalogue of shows and movies to watch, compared to other services like Peacock.
  • HBO Max With Ads is $US9.99 ($14)/month, and the company promises no more than four minutes of commercials per hour of streaming content. That’s one of the lower ad exposure rates, but the service is also the most expensive service on this list (and does not include newly released movies).
  • Peacock is $US4.99 ($7)/month, and has about five minutes of ads per hour of streaming content, which is still much better than what’d you’d get with cable TV. That ad rate does seem to reset if you skip ahead or jump between shows a lot, however. Compared to Hulu, it has less content but way fewer ads, too. It’s worth noting that the premium tier of Peacock has occasional ads, too, for a limited number of shows.
  • Paramount+ has an ad-supported tier that’s $US4.99 ($7)/month, and it has an ad load of about 4 minutes per hour of streaming content.
  • Discovery Plus has about four minutes or less worth of ads per hour of streaming content. You’ll see about three short ads per 60 minutes. Typically, they are less than one minute and tend to be shown during videos.
  • Tubi has about 4-8 minutes of ad breaks per hour of streaming content.
  • YouTube Premium, which costs $US11.99 ($16)/month, isn’t a streaming service in the same vein as other services in this list, but it’s very popular as a replacement for TV. While the exact number of ads per hour isn’t entirely clear (it varies), you can expect to see a 15-20 second ad (or two) every few minutes of streaming. That translates into about 5-8 minutes of ads per hour of streaming content.

Consider cost and content

Most ad-free tiers will cost you an additional $US5 ($7)/month. Whether that’s worth it will depends on your tolerance for ads and overall viewing habits. For example, I’m a casual subscriber of Peacock, as I only use it to watch old sitcoms every once in a while, so I have no need for the premium service. But YouTube? I use it waaay more, sometimes up to three to four hours a day. In that case, I’m more than happy to spend twelve bucks to avoid watching 20-30 minutes ads (life is short, you see).

Of course, your tolerance for ads might vary. And if you’re on the fence about choosing a between a paid or ad-supported service, it can’t hurt to start with the ad-free version and decide to upgrade later, too.

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