IMDb TV is still an imperfect solution for streaming on a budget

The IMDb TV Logo behind a shattered screen
(Image credit: IMDB TV)

When Netflix arrived on the scene as a streaming service back in 2007, we began to glimpse a better future for television. In the following years – as a handful of other platforms rose up - cutting the cord became commonplace as people flocked to these cost-saving solutions that offered must-see hits you wouldn’t find on cable.

Now fractured content libraries charging significant sums every month have returned us to the dark days of television, where those desperate to watch everything have to shell out for numerous subscriptions every month. But is there an alternative?

With the launch of the IMDb TV app on iOS and Android – in the US, at least – a service that draws its content library from Amazon Prime and Paramount Plus, it seems like there could finally be a way forward for the viewer on a budget. But alas, IMDb TV’s free, ad-supported content might not yet be the hero we need – and might never be.

For one, the Amazon-owned IMDb TV platform is only available in the US, leaving the rest of the world trapped in the jaws of paid services – aside from the odd exception such as the Roku Channel or Samsung TV Plus. For another, its selection of older films and series are almost all available elsewhere, meaning that if you’re subscribed to even a couple of paid services you can probably watch most of it ad-free on those instead. 

Further, while IMDb TV does boast a range of exclusive content, none of it has managed to capture mainstream attention like The Boys or Stranger Things. This combination of lacking both third-party and first-party hits is a perfect storm that means you likely haven’t heard of IMDb TV before this week.

Unfortunately, even with more offerings headed its way from Paramount Plus, we’d be surprised to see IMDb TV catch up to its rivals. That’s because, disappointingly, ad-supported viewing can’t possibly match what subscriptions can achieve in terms of revenue and quality.

Why don’t ads work anymore? 

Back when there were only a few channels to skim through, adverts could demand the attention of wide swathes of the population. With maybe only a couple of other channels to watch, where else could you look?

Now, with a vast selection of distractions at our fingertips, audiences are spread thin across an array of different channels and services. This means the same ads aren’t reaching as many people, meaning companies aren't as incentivised to pay for them.

Meanwhile, our expectations for shows have been rising. With series like Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian using technology and effects we’d see in blockbuster films, the bar has been raised and series have to either match or surpass what’s come before to have a chance to rise above the crowds. This means budgets have to grow too, but they can only be supported if the money’s there.

That’s why the best shows are now often seen on paid streaming platforms or on cable, where you have to pay extra to view the content. That monthly or yearly subscription gives creators the funds to make use of huge crews and amazing special effects that ad-supported options can’t compete with.

IMDb TV will hopefully keep trying with its advert-powered endeavor, as in the search for more budget-friendly viewing we’d gladly eat our hat and see it and other platforms succeed. But most likely the best we’ll see is the likes of Hulu and HBO Max’s ad-supported tiers, which offer a smaller selection of titles with adverts at a cheaper monthly cost. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.