ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV has launched the first stage of a major ad campaign for 2020 in the US worth $30 million as the battle between free, ad-supported TV streaming services hots up.

Up to now, free streaming services have generally attracted less attention as ad-free subscription services like Netflix, Disney+ and HBO’s planned HBO Max duke it out for subscribers.

But, as traditional advertising-supported TV channels decline in popularity, advocates of streaming services like Pluto envision a shift towards ad-supported streaming. One of the reasons, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that there’s simply a limit to how many subscription services viewers will pay for.

CE of Pluto TV, Tom Ryan, told the Journal, “We believe the opportunity for free, ad-supported TV is massive and complementary to [subscription] services.”

As competition among free services builds, Pluto TV hopes its brand will become established in consumers’ minds. The campaign will begin this month with a 30-second, late-night TV ad. Other elements of the campaign will feature out-of-home ads in seven major cities including New York and LA, plus ads on connected TV platforms, in cinemas and on social media.

But advertising budgets for free streaming TV don’t yet compare with those for subscription streaming services – Netflix spent $2.65 billion on marketing last year, The Journal noted.

Meanwhile, AT&T TV has just entered the subscription TV service fray in earnest with a nationwide rollout, offering an Android TV set-top box and a two-year contract with a price tag starting at $49.99 a month for 12 months before jumping to $93 per month for the second year. The company also offers a bundle including home internet and its AT&T TV service for $80 a month.

“The businesses models are fundamentally different, but these services are all monetizing off of how much time people are spending on their platforms,” Eric Haggstrom, forecasting analyst at research firm eMarketer, told The Journal.

“The more time people spend on Netflix, the less likely they are to churn out; in [free TV’s] case, the more people watch their services, the more inventory they have to sell.”

Sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff