Facebook and Instagram Are Going the Route of Ad-Free Streaming Services





Facebook mobile app.

Meta on Monday said that it would begin offering an advertisement-free version of Instagram and Facebook to European users willing to pay a monthly subscription fee starting in November. It raises the question of whether people would actually pay for either social network or just move on.

The company said that the ad-free tier will cost €9.99 ($10.60) a month on the web or €12.99 ($13.79) a month for access on iOS and Android. The fee will cover all linked accounts until March 1, when Meta will begin charging an additional fee of €6 ($6.37) a month on the web and €8 ($8.49) a month on iOS and Android per account.

While the plans will be exclusive to users in the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland, it’s an interesting exercise to imagine how users around the world would react to having the option to eliminate ads.

It comes at a time when social media is challenging the idea that access should be free, with Elon Musk also expressing his intention to start charging to use X (formerly Twitter). These social media platforms grew rapidly because of free access, and these ad-free tiers offer a test of whether consumers see enough value to pay for them. Companies like Meta and Twitter generate a vast majority of their revenue from advertising.

It’s also not unlike the change in dynamic with streaming services. Amazon is in the most similar, with plans to introduce ads into its platform next year but giving subscribers the option to pay $2.99 a month to skip the ads. Other services, such as Netflix and Disney+, went the opposite route, starting with an ad-free premium tier first, and then later offering the ad-based version.

In the case of Netflix and Disney, customers are willing to move to the cheaper tier in exchange for receiving ads. But Amazon, like Meta, will serve as a test of whether people will pay the premium to skip ads, or just keep the usual ad-based experience.

Meta’s new ad-free option is a result of Europe Union’s Data Privacy Commissioner fining Meta €390 million in violation of its General Data Protection Regulation act. The tier is meant to placate concerns that it hadn’t adequately received consent from users to use their info for personalized ads, although regulators in the region continue to scrutinize the company.

“In its ruling, the (Court of Justice of the European Union) CJEU expressly recognised that a subscription model, like the one we are announcing, is a valid form of consent for an ads funded service,” the company said. 

Only time will tell if this is just an empty gesture, with most consumers opting to stick with the free version, or whether folks will pay a premium.

Musk, who is readying his own subscription model on Twitter — one that’ll likely affect everyone — is probably keen to see the results.

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