March 2, 2024

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Amazon Ad Tier goes live, and TV writers aren't happy with the commercials – The Hollywood Reporter

Amazon Ad Tier goes live, and TV writers aren't happy with the commercials – The Hollywood Reporter

On Monday, Prime Video subscribers who visited the platform were greeted with a new prompt: “Movies and TV shows included with Prime now contain limited ads. You can upgrade to go ad-free for $2.99 ​​per month.”

After a quick click on “Not Now,” this viewer pointed to one of the most successful titles currently on Amazon's slate — Season 2 of the beef drama. The arrival. Interruptions which included a place for another series (Hudson and Rex, starring a German Shepherd detective) and a reminder from the folks at Intuit Turbotax that packing season had begun, were already limited. But in an era when more and more viewers are culturally conditioned to distaste for ads on any broadcast except the Super Bowl, even limited spots are becoming apparent.

“We fought hard to get rid of the commercials,” says Alan Ball, executive producer and director of the original Max. Tokyo Vice Which returns for season two on February 8. “It was a fundamental gain, and now it's starting to turn around.”

If you're not willing or able to part with the extra $2.99, $6 (Disney+ and Max), $8.50 (Netflix), or $10 (Hulu) for ad-free enjoyment, commercials are the new (old) normal. Paramount will launch its own ad-supported tier later in 2024 — and while no official plans have been announced, recent Apple TV+ hires suggest the tech giant will eventually follow suit. Subscriber frustration, especially in a climate of hyperinflation, is self-evident. Emotions in the creative community, which range from indifference to anger, depend largely on where and how the individual works.

For Paul, whose US platform is still working to expand its global reach, Tokyo Vice It must be manufactured in a way that allows it to be sold to multiple platforms in other regions. Some of these have ads and others don't. Although action breaks—those intentional transition moments in scripts that serve as natural windows to commercials—were not written to fit the ad's possibilities, Paul says such breaks are discussed with editors in post-production.

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Many scribes still write scripts with broadcast-friendly business breaks in mind. One of them, Terry Matalas, was working on the assumption that Star Trek: Picard It may eventually find its way to a platform with an ad-supported layer as the series is worked on. When Paramount+ launches announcements in a few months, its hunch will prove correct. “I just wish the showrunners had a say in where the ads were, which is what it is,” says Matalas [episodes] “It doesn’t just break in the middle.”

For the creators who spoke out about this story, the lack of any discussion about ad placement seems to be the norm — and a real sticking point for many. When director Lulu Wang spoke with… THR In January, she was still unsure where to place ads on the expensive Prime Video drama Expatriates. By adopting a weekly show, with the first two episodes premiering before advertising was introduced and the back four episodes declining in this new era, Wang says she did not discover the potential for advertising until filming was completed. (Amazon publicly announced its plans in September 2023, confirming the tier's start date and price point in December.)

“I'm very angry about that,” Wang said. “If I had known, I would have created it differently because it's not a show that has cliffhangers or commercial breaks to make sure people come back.”

David E. Kelley, the one-time golden boy who gave audiences Picket fences, Chicago Hope And Ali McBeal Before switching to premiere outlets like HBO (Big little lies(And Netflix)Lawyer Lincoln), seems similarly frustrated. In 2021, he released the first season in collaboration with Nicole Kidman nine Complete strangers On Hulu. According to the subscription plan, viewers received, by his estimation, two different offers.

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“Sometimes it turns it upside down,” Kelly says. “I believed Nine perfect strangers With the commercials it was terrible. We sold it as a one-hour show, and it was served like a pie, but it was like dessert. “You can't slice pudding, and that's exactly what happened.”

Not everyone feels the same strength. when Wednesday Creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar have delivered the Jenna Ortega drama to Netflix, the streamer's most-watched English-language original to date, and the pair have baked in natural moments for commercial breaks in the episodes they've delivered — more out of habit than anything else. “‘Driven’ is a word you hear a lot in live streaming… how to attract people and bring them back,” says Goff. “So, even though there aren't actual breaks in the scripts like before, the form is there. We're not doing it because of any mandate from Netflix or [producers] MGM.”

WednesdaySeason 2 is written in a similar way. While Millar says there has been no dialogue with executives about where to insert said ads, that's also not a concern: “If they ask us where the breaks go, we'll tell them, but it's pretty clear.”

Francesca Sloan, co-founder and showrunner for Amazon Prime's Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in a boat similar to Wang. It learned about the ad-supported tier during post-production, and on February 2, it has its first notable series to launch under the new subscription model. She says they haven't made any changes regarding where ads can go.

“I've written on other shows in the past where this question has been asked,” says Sloan, who previously worked on it. Atlanta, Fargo And Seven seconds. “Nine times out of 10, you're just trying to write the story without thinking about any breaks and then hoping it doesn't cause a major disruption.”

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Whether they think about it or not, TV creators and viewers are running out of completely commercial-free platforms. And those banners that have already made the jump are multiplying. Netflix, which recently noted that 40 percent of all new subscriptions opt for ads, has announced the “retirement” of its lowest-cost, commercial-free tier in the upcoming second quarter. Advertising, after all, is not just an additional source of income. It's a way to appease Wall Street through subscriber growth, and cheaper plans will always be attractive to a large portion of consumers. “The reality is that most consumers are buying the cheaper tiers, which is almost worse than streaming,” Kelly says. “And then you can at least get your TiVo on during the breaks.”

This wholesale shift from the original promise of streaming might have angered more writers and producers, had it not come at a time of deep frustrations with the entire ecosystem. The 2023 strikes have delivered new gains and assurances, yes, but Hollywood is back at work beleaguered with tighter budgets, mass cancellations, and fewer green lights. Making TV without worrying about commercial breaks, like many of the franchises that characterized the now-ended TV boom of the past decade, is a thing of the past.

“Losing commercials was one of the biggest steps in making television more cinematic,” Paul says. “I'm happy to pay a few extra dollars to not have it, but I know that's not a luxury available to everyone.”