Ads on Disney Plus are coming — but not too many of them. Disney has revealed that the forthcoming ad-supported tier of the streaming service will carry four minutes of commercials per hour. Additionally, profiles of preschool-age children won't see any at all.
The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) reported on some of the details of Disney Plus with ads, but the most important one was missing: the price. The current rate is $7.99 and Disney has said the new tier is intended as a lower-price option.
Disney Plus is planning to run four minutes of ads per hour, which the company pointed out is half as much as its other streaming service Hulu. It's also less than or equal to the ad-supported tiers of Peacock (five minutes) and HBO Max (four minutes).
Paramount Plus doesn't say outright what its ad load is, but research by ad intelligence agency MediaRadar (opens in new tab) found it had the highest among the streaming services at 23.8 ads per hour (which we calculate totals 10-12 minutes). Traditional television trumps them all, averaging 20 minutes per hour. It's why so many people have cut the cord.
The WSJ also reports ad buyers are excited by the new Disney Plus offering because of the "brand-safe content." Some companies have been dinged for their commercials appearing within controversial content or in an inappropriate context. In February, an Applebees ad went viral (and not in a good way) for airing in a split screen with CNN's coverage of the war in Ukraine.
In keeping with its wholesome image, Disney Plus is restricting ads so they aren't seen by preschoolers. No commercials will play during content targeted to young kids. And preschoolers with their own profiles will never see ads.
“We’re never going to collect data on individual kids to target them,” said Rita Ferro, Disney’s president of ad sales and partnerships.
Analysis: The price needs to be right for Disney Plus with ads
Limiting commercials to four minutes an hour is a good move on Disney Plus' part. It's puts them on the lower end of the range found among streaming services. Watching two 30-second ads every 15 minutes seems tolerable — but only if the price is low enough.
Currently, Disney Plus costs $7.99. The price of the ad-supported plan must be lower than that. And if the company really wants to retail wavering subscribers and attract new ones, it has to be a fairly significant cut.
My guess is that Disney will price the ad tier at $3.99 a month. Here's why: Back before Disney Plus launched in November 2019, they offered a steeply discounted deal to D23 fan club members. By signing up for three years in advance, the cost of Disney Plus came out to $3.92 a month. Those three-year terms end this November. Many of those subscribers, including myself, may cancel rather than pay the regular rate.
I have previously written about how I wanted to cancel Disney Plus but couldn't because I'd gotten the deal. When my three years is up, I planned to churn the service — subscribe during the periods when there are shows I want to watch and cancel when there aren't.
But at $3.99, Disney Plus with ads would be a tempting alternative. Even if I'm not using the service a lot, it would be nice to have access. Then, when The Mandalorian or a Marvel series is on, I could upgrade to the ad-free plan. This is the way?