As the Bank Holiday weekend approaches, people across the country will be sitting down to binge their way through some box sets. This summer, though, you may find your latest Netflix crush interrupted by a short clip from another series. If you do, your television isn’t broken: it’s because Netflix is experimenting with inserting trailers between episodes.
Users on Reddit reported these promotional videos this week, with one subscriber describing what they saw: “After the episode ended, I got a screen saying ‘More Shameless up next… ‘ then the title card slid off screen, and it continued with, ‘but first check out Insatiable’ and started playing the trailer.”
Netflix has made its name, and built its audience, on the back of its differences from other broadcasters and platforms, with no adverts or contracts for people wanting to stream its TV and films. Netflix, though, is always looking for ways to change and upgrade its interface. After changing its menus to include video previews instead of thumbnail videos, Netflix is now looking at whether to slip those videos in between episodes of TV series.
Netflix confirmed the test in a statement to Ars Technica: “We are testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster.”
Indeed, the faster Netflix’s tweaks can help people find something to watch, the longer they will be on the streaming service for longer, without browsing elsewhere. The menu videos, therefore, were kept because they cut the amount of time people spending surfing Netflix; the less time people spend browsing and searching for specific things, the less time they have to consider what Netflix doesn’t have, rather than what it does. This is one of the advantages Netflix has over Amazon Prime Video, when it comes to browsing and streaming on computers; Amazon’s video platform is integrated into its overall retail site, which means that if you are not using an app on a mobile device, it is easy to move away from its shows or movies. While Netflix is only just testing adverts, Amazon Prime Video has been using pre-roll video clips of other Prime Video shows for some time.
Netflix’s spokesperson noted, crucially, that (like Amazon Prime Video) these adverts are skippable. As well as the fact that these are only promotions for Netflix titles (parents seeking an ad-free environment away from YouTube don’t need to panic), it’s also important to highlight the word “test”, as Netflix will trial the feature with a small cross-section of users and analyse the data, before deciding whether to roll it out wider. Whether the test is only on smart TVs, consoles, mobiles or computers is not yet clear.