Hulu is rolling out ads that appear when users pause the show they're watching, although the company says the ads are designed to be non-intrusive. While there are notable exceptions to the rule, for the most part, consumers tend to agree that if a streaming service costs money to watch, it should be provided free of advertising. Netflix set this standard with its streaming plan, which has always been ad-free. Even if Netflix wanted to start showing ads, a recent survey suggested over half of its subscribers might cancel if they do, so that probably wouldn't be wise.
One of the aforementioned notable exceptions to the general principle of "people shouldn't have to pay to watch commercials" is Hulu, which offers two tiers of service. The basic tier - recently discounted to $5.99 per month from $7.99 - comes with "limited commercials," although anyone who's actually used it would likely argue the ad breaks are far from minimal. For those willing to shell out more bucks, Hulu also offers a premium tier without ads for $11.99 per month. CBS All Access has a similar two-tiered system, but outside of those two services, pretty much every other streaming outlet that carries a cost to use does not also contain ads.
Related: Hulu's 10 Best Shows To Stream
Now, Engadget reports that Hulu is debuting a new type of ad this spring that appears when subscribers pause a show in progress. Thankfully, the ads aren't full-on videos with sound, instead appearing as a transparent image similar to a silent banner ad online. Hulu says the ads are designed specifically to be non-intrusive, which is sure to please those who would like some quiet time when they pause a show. Hulu's ad-free subscribers can rest easy, as the pause ads only appear on the basic tier. An example of one can be seen below.
As evidenced by the ad for Charmin toilet paper in the above sample image, Hulu somewhat amusingly plans for the pause break ads to be appropriately themed, with another brand set to be included being Coca-Cola. Statistically, most people are probably pausing to either head to the bathroom or the kitchen, so these choices make sense. One wonders how long they'll stay silent and static though.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out why Hulu is attempting to create an additional source of ad revenue. As mentioned earlier, they just dropped the price of their standard subscription, and that lost revenue needs to be made up somewhere. Additionally, Hulu continues to spend lots of money on its original programming, and routinely loses millions for Disney, which will become its majority owner once the Fox purchase is complete. Still, it's hard not to fondly recall the days when Hulu offered free ad-supported viewing to everyone. That seems so long ago now.