Netflix CEO Reed Hastings swears that Netflix will never have commercials. But the “read my lips” tone of this statement sometimes falls a little flat when you examine what Netflix considers the definition of an ad.
There have been countless Netflix users seeing “test” versions of Netflix-related promotional clips for the service’s original content airing on the service, not unlike HBO, and in some senses this is forgivable. These might even be considered helpful by some, as the Netflix original library continues to grow, it’s nice to get a brief clip of a new show or movie that we might be interested in.
But a little less recognized has been the ramping up of clear and obvious product placement in hit Netflix shows and movies. Adam Sandler’s casual perfect framing of a Bud Light box, Kevin Spacey’s holding of a new phone model center of the shot, Randall Park installing a Nest unit in Ali Wong’s upscale home, the list goes on.
With that being said, there’s probably no series currently more popular with advertiser target demographics than Stranger Things. The show has found a large audience in that 18-39 dream range, and it has become apparent that major consumer brands want to get in on the action. From Burger King to H&M, Nike, to Coke, the partnerships and licensing with the series have spiked since the first season premiered several years ago.
While Netflix has never said publicly how product placement works on their service, after analyzing their quarterly financial statements they don’t explicitly mention this income as a line item. It’s important to note that most product placement goes to the show’s production company and not to the distribution company, but it still seems hard to not imagine Netflix taking a cut, especially if they’re partial producers of a piece of content (less common than you might think).
And do people even care? Probably not.
Product placement might create some groans if it’s too obvious, I can speak for myself and say I’d much prefer a brief and cheesy product placement to 90 seconds of commercials in the middle of my favorite shows.
This is not new, and not only do most streaming services have shows with product placement, but network shows and blockbuster movies have been doing this for years.