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Screenshot: IMDB.com

Over-the-top digital streaming TV companies that don't charge people for access are rising as consumers face saturated budgets for subscription content.

Why it matters: While data shows consumers today are generally less tolerant of ads, the rise of these services shows that there's still an appetite for advertising if it's relevant — and if it means consumers can access their favorite content without having to pay a subscription fee.

Driving the news: On Thursday, Amazon-owned IMDB launched Freedive, a free, ad-supported streaming video channel featuring hit movies and TV shows. The Freedive app can be viewed on mobile, desktop or on Amazon Fire TV devices.

Free, ad-supported streaming services are rising, as subscription streaming services face stiff competition for consumers' budgets.

  • Roku's free ad-supported channel, The Roku Channel, is the No. 3 ad-supported channel on the company's platform; it has about half the advertising per programming hour of traditional linear TV.
  • Hulu's ad-supported business continues to grow, with the company announcing over $1.5 billion in yearly ad sales this week.
  • Even telecom companies, like Dish and AT&T, are beginning to offer free tiers or products for streaming, like AT&T's "Watch" streaming service, which launched last year.
  • Free TV services like Xumo and Pluto TV also continue to grow their subscriber bases, as Digiday's Sahil Patel noted last year.

Between the lines: Some of these ad-supported streaming companies, which rely on new-age addressable (digitally automated) TV ads instead of traditional TV ads, could build lucrative businesses.

  • Both Roku and Hulu have increased their ad revenues by more than 50% years over year.
  • Roku’s ad revenue increased 57% from 2017 to 2018. At this point, its advertising business is growing faster than its hardware business, a sign of investment in the company’s free ad-supported channels.
  • While both are still relatively small in their share of the total digital advertising pie, they are expected to grow quickly over the next two years, per eMarketer.

Be smart: One reason these free services are growing fast is that they have become a win-win for manufacturers who need to add apps to new smart TV lineups and for programmers who need wider distribution for their content.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
11 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.