Netflix launches an ad-supported plan

Woman holding a remote for a TV on Netflix

Updated on March 25, 2023

Netflix has been trying to find a way to stave off this year’s first-time-ever decline in subscribers. As I previously wrote, Netflix has numerous problems, but to summarize:

  • It’s now the most expensive streaming service.
  • It’s no longer quite the “catch-all” service it once was, thanks to media companies yanking material to start their own services.
  • Lackluster marketing of its TV shows and movies.
  • Its rivals (Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Paramount+, etc.) are cheaper, offer more features, and/or have more popular properties.
  • Netflix relies too much on algorithms, while also being too quick to cancel TV shows.
  • Unlike its rivals, Netflix has few business assets to rely on besides streaming.

However, Netflix plans to address the first point at least. Last week, Netflix announced its long-rumored ad-supported plan, “Basic with Ads.”

What does Netflix’s ad-supported plan offer?

Netflix streaming service playing Hotel Transylvania
Image by Andrés Rodríguez from Pixabay

Starting November 3 in the United States, Netflix will launch Basic with Ads. The new tier will also launch in a dozen countries: the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Basic with Ads will cost $6.99 in the US. The tier features:

  • Four to five minutes of ads per hour.
  • 720p picture resolution.
  • No downloads to devices allowed.
  • Only streaming to one device at a time.
  • Part of the catalog won’t be available, due to licensing reasons (though Netflix is working on that).

The other existing plans will remain in place: Basic (without ads) at $9.99, Standard (with 1080p) at $15.49, and Premium (with 4K) at $19.99. In a sign someone at Netflix finally looked at a calendar, they’ve also finally upgraded the $10 Basic tier to 720p (from the standard-definition 480p).

The disadvantages of Netflix Basic with Ads

Roku remote with Netflix and Hulu buttons
Image by mjimages from Pixabay

The price is the main advantage of Netflix Basic with Ads. At $7, Netflix’s ad-based tier is priced similarly to the ad-based versions of Paramount+ ($5), Peacock’s ad-based paid tier ($5), and Hulu ($8). It’ll also be a dollar cheaper than Disney+’s ad-based tier when it launches in December (at $8). Netflix is also now cheaper than HBO Max’s ad-based tier ($10).

However, I feel the advantages of Netflix’s ad-based tier end there. To go into the disadvantages:

Only 720p

Upgrading the Basic tier to high definition is long overdue. However, 720p is barely acceptable as HD in 2022, especially when 1080p is the usual minimum standard these days.

The free ad-based services Pluto TV and Tubi offer content in 720p, plus a few broadcasters (ABC and Fox) still broadcast in 720p by default. Thus, Basic with Ads might be acceptable by some at 720p. However, Tubi, ABC, etc. are all free streaming services or broadcasters, versus Netflix charging $7.

It seems needlessly penny-pinching and outdated to charge a premium for full HD content, especially when Netflix’s rivals all offer 1080p on-demand at a minimum.

Not enough of a price savings versus ad-free tier

Basic with Ads is only $3 cheaper than the ad-free Basic tier, which also offers a few more features (downloads, the full Netflix catalog). I don’t feel it’s worth putting up with commercials to save a measly three bucks.

Of course, this could change when Netflix inevitably hikes prices on its services again.

Limited number of streams

Both of Netflix’s Basic tiers only allow streaming to one device at a time. Fine for one person, but I feel this makes it a tough sell for a household.

No downloads

Not allowing device downloads means Netflix’s Basic with Ads tier can’t be used by anyone who needs to travel without internet access, such as on a plane. Though to be fair, most other streaming services’ ad-based tiers also don’t allow for downloads, so this isn’t a unique disadvantage for Netflix.

Fewer features versus its rivals

Finally, Netflix’s Basic with Ads tier doesn’t offer as many features as its similarly-priced rivals:

  • Paramount+ offers live streaming of CBS News, plus NFL football games.
  • Peacock’s $5 ad-based tier offers streaming of NFL football games and Premier League soccer, plus some live NBC events.
  • All of Netflix’s rivals offer streaming to multiple devices, their entire catalog (except Peacock’s free ad-based tier), and a minimum of 1080p.

Skip Netflix Basic with Ads, (maybe) consider Basic plan instead

Netflix on iPhone
“Netflix”by stockcatalog is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

I don’t feel Netflix’s ad-based plan is worth getting. As a service, Basic with Ads is too compromised and lacking in features for what it costs, especially compared to its rivals. Also, it only saves consumers $3 over the cheapest ad-free Netflix tier.

One’s better off considering Netflix’s $10 Basic plan instead. It’s finally in (barebones) HD, allows downloading to devices, lets one access the entire catalog, is significantly cheaper than the Standard and Premium tiers, and is ad-free. However, it still shares some of the ad-based tier’s problems regarding screen resolution and limited downloads. Additionally, most of Netflix’s Basic tier rivals are cheaper, offer better features, and/or have more popular franchises:

  • All of them offer 1080p and/or 4K on-demand content.
  • Paramount+ ($10) offers live streaming of your local CBS affiliate, along with NFL games.
  • Disney+ ($11) offers the entire massive Disney catalog, as well as “Star Wars,” Marvel, Pixar, and National Geographic. Disney+ also offers the “Disney+ bundle,” including ESPN+ and the ad-free version of Hulu, for $20, the same price as Netflix’s 4K tier.
  • Amazon Prime Video is $9 (ad-free), while Apple TV+ is ad-free and even cheaper, at $5.

Overall, Netflix’s ad-free Basic plan might be worth considering if you’re willing to put up with its drawbacks, it’s for a single person (not a household), and you really want Netflix’s catalog as cheaply as possible. Otherwise, I’d just budget for the Standard tier (at $15.49 a month) instead.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay


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Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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