Why Ad-Supported Streaming Services Matter for Higher Ed Marketing

By: Lora Polich Apr 13, 2023

Why Ad-Supported Streaming Services Matter for Higher Ed Marketing

Except during the Super Bowl, most people don’t watch TV for ads. When asked, most people will say they don’t like advertising, so it makes sense that a slew of ad-free streaming services has appeared in the last couple of decades. Yet few of those platforms remain completely subscription based. Even Netflix is now offering an ad-supported option.

The truth is that many people would rather pay a little less for their subscription, even if it means they have to watch commercials. The results from our online college students survey confirm this. Almost 50% of students said they would downgrade from an ad-free streaming service to an ad-supported service if the subscription costs less per month.

This willingness to trade ads for a lower subscription bill extends to audio streaming as well. With subscribers opting to listen to ads in exchange for free or lower-priced streaming of music and podcasts. All of this means that streaming services are likely to remain a key platform for higher ed markers for the foreseeable future.

Ad-Supported Streaming Services in 2023

The majority of video streaming happens on connected TVs or smart TVs but viewers also watch on mobile phones, desktop computers, gaming consoles and tablets. An international survey by Deloitte confirmed that more than half of consumers would prefer an ad-supported video streaming service over a higher-priced, ad-free option.

Many streaming services offer a free or low-priced ad-supported option. These include Hulu, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Prime TV, Pandora and others. At the end of 2022, Netflix and Disney+ joined the list, rolling out ad-supported options for their customers.

With 70% of TV watching time occurring through streaming services, including this platform as part of a higher ed marketing mix just makes sense. More than 35% of the US population can be defined as cord-cutters, people who no longer use traditional television or cable services.

More importantly, ads on streaming services get results. Almost 60% of advertisers have seen an increase in brand awareness after investing in connected TV advertising. They also saw a 49% increase in brand engagement and 25% higher conversion rates.

The Most Popular Streaming Services Among Students

Hulu is the veteran of the streaming platforms, founded in 2007 with a limited-access free option and a paid, ad-supported service. In 2017, Hulu introduced an OTT live service that streamed linear television, including local live broadcasts and sporting events. About 58% of online college students use Hulu.

Netflix is the leading streaming media platform among students, inching out even YouTube, with 77% of students using the platform. One reason for this supremacy may be the Netflix policy of allowing account sharing. However, in February 2023, the company announced a shift away from this philosophy. It’s too early to tell what the impact of that change will be, especially when coupled with the new ad-supported streaming option.

YouTube runs a close second to Netflix, with 73% of students using YouTube. Those who use it tend to stream YouTube content daily. YouTube has traditionally been an ad-supported platform. It didn’t introduce a paid, ad-free option until 2015, and students still vastly prefer the unpaid version of the platform.

Among audio streaming services, Spotify is the clear leader, with 45% of students using the platform, compared to 22% using Pandora and 21% using Apple Music. In 2020, Spotify introduced video podcasts. Even for users who are just listening to music, Spotify can display video ads if the app is “in focus,” that is, open as the primary app on a device and the user is engaged with it.

How Streaming Services Fit Into the Higher Ed Marketing Mix

The average household in the United States subscribes to four streaming video services. That means colleges and universities have multiple opportunities to catch the attention of students across various streaming platforms.

Each of these ad platforms has different targeting options, reporting capabilities, and minimum ad buys. Deciding which ad-supported streaming platform to advertise on comes down to goals and budget, but the fact remains that streaming platforms are powerful and should factor into the higher education marketing mix.

The digital marketing experts at EDDY are monitoring these platforms to stay informed of how each one evolves. For help building brand awareness through advertising on streaming services, reach out to the Awareness Marketing experts at EDDY.