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Netflix Says Ad Tier Has 40M Users, Plans to Bring Ad Tech In-House in Shift From Microsoft

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Netflix says that its advertising-supported tier now has 40 million monthly active users, as it seeks to shake up the technology and buying partners that currently power the offering.

At its upfront preview Wednesday, the streaming giant said that it had hit the 40 million MAU number. For comparison, at its inaugural upfront last year it said it had "nearly five million." In November 2023, Netflix said the ad-supported userbase had tripled to 15 million.

The company says that over 40 percent of new signups are for the ads plan, suggesting that it is growing at a rapid pace.

At the same time, Netflix is shaking up its advertising technology stack, and its partners in the space.

Netflix ads chief Amy Reinhard said that the company is building an in-house advertising technology platform, giving marketers new ways to buy and measure.

"Bringing our ad tech in-house will allow us to power the ads plan with the same level of excellence that's made Netflix the leader in streaming technology today," she said. 

And the company is expanding its roster of buy-side programmatic partners beyond Microsoft later this summer to include The Trade Desk, Google's Display & Video 360, and Magnite. Microsoft had been Netflix's exclusive global ad tech partner since the tier was announced two years ago.

Netflix had outsourced a lot of the advertising backbone to Microsoft so that it could get the tier up and running as quickly as possible, but with more scale, it is seeking to do more itself and bring in more partners.

The company also unveiled a number of measurement and verification partners who will help measure the reach and efficacy of its ads, including Affinity Solutions, DoubleVerify, EDO Inc, Integral Ad Science, iSpotTV, Kantar, Lucid, NCSolutions, Nielsen and TVision.

"We're being incredibly strategic about how we present ads because we want our members to have a phenomenal experience. We conduct deep consumer research to make sure we stay ahead of the competition, bringing opportunities that are better for members and better for brands," Reinhard added.

Netflix, like other streaming platforms, has been gently nudging its users to its ad tier in recent months, often by hiking prices on ad-free tiers. Ad tiers tend to have better economics than purely ad-free tiers, with the opportunity to monetize users through targeting.

That being said, even users of Netflix's ad-free tiers will have some exposure to sponsors. The company said that the energy drink Celsius had signed on as the presenting sponsor of the upcoming Jake Paul-Mike Tyson boxing match, with branding inside the ring, and "featured placements throughout the broadcast."

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