In Netflix-only homes kids are growing up not knowing what commercial are

Video streaming services such as Netflix have become so popular that some households are using them to the exclusion of broadcast or cable television. The content on live streaming is compelling enough, with the gaps being filled by rented DVDs and the Internet, that Netflix-only viewing can be a cheap option.

According to an article in Thrillist, one of the unintended effects of the practice is that an entire generation of children is growing up having never seen a commercial on television. Netflix makes its money from user subscriptions and does not, at the current time, sell commercial time to advertisers.

The first commercials ran on the radio and, at first, urged people to buy radio sets. Other products followed with ads consisting of either on-air endorsements by radio show hosts or produced spots. Entire shows were sometimes sponsored by a single advertiser, noted at the beginning of the program.

Commercials came into their own when television started getting widespread, and pictures could be added to verbal endorsements. By the 1960s the production of TV commercials had become a science, with words and images combining to subliminally induce the viewer to buy the product or service or vote for the political candidate being featured. More recently, television ads had become recognized as an art form. Commercials that run during the Superbowl have been featured and discussed as much as the game itself.

In a recent survey by Exstreamist, 38 percent of children who live in homes with traditional TV programming were unaware of what a commercial was, primarily because their viewing habits had been restricted. But an eye-popping 82 percent of children in homes that only use Netflix were unfamiliar with what a TV ad was.

On the one hand, this state of affairs must be a blessing to parents and an argument for switching over to solely Netflix. Netflix-only kids are less likely to pester Mom and Dad for that overpriced toy or the sugary breakfast food just because they saw it on TV.

One the other hand, if more people switch to live streaming, ad agencies are going to start tearing their hair. TV ads have been a revenue stream for Madison Avenue for decades. Besides, they have clients who need to sell products to people who watch TV after a hard day at the office or school.

But then a lot of kids are getting their content from the Internet, and therein lies the new frontier of advertising. Ad agencies are getting skilled at blending in advertising with content. So the children of America will not be safe from companies trying to get their parents to buy them stuff for very long.