Netflix just pulled cheapest ad-free plan in Canada — is the US next?

Netflix on TV with remote control in foreground
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Netflix just began another controversial change, at least in Canada. According to The Winnipeg Free Press, Netflix will be ending the ad-free Basic tier. That means the cheapest ad-free experience will be the $16.49 CAD per month Standard tier, which is $15.49 in the U.S..

A timeline hasn't been established yet, but Netflix is phasing out the Basic option in Canada for new subscribers, while existing Basic subscribers won't be forced to a new plan. Only if they cancel Netflix or move to another plan will they lose the regular Basic option for good. This would mean that the only more affordable Netflix price would come with the $5.99 CAD Standard with ads tier.

It’s not clear if or when such a move would expand to other regions, but it would be a little odd if Netflix wasn’t looking at this as a test run, to see how the loss of an ad-free Basic tier might go down in other parts of the world. But as of the time of writing nothing has been confirmed beyond the Great White North.

But it’s no real surprise that Netflix is taking steps to scrap the ad-free Basic plan. Netflix hides the ad-free Basic tier when you're signing up, only showing the Standard with ads, Standard and Premium plans by default. If you want Basic, you must click a small “See All Plans” button at the bottom of the screen.

It’s also worth noting that Netflix upgraded the ad-supported tier earlier this year, rebranding it “Standard with ads” and boosting the resolution from 720p to 1080p. However it’s worth noting that, despite costing more than half the price of a Standard plan, users on the ad-supported tier bring in more money.

Basic is still limited to 720p, and cost $10 CAD and USD per month — $3 more than Standard with ads — and offers the option to download content for offline viewing. That's a perk the ad-supported tier does not include, likely because you need to be connected to the internet to be served commercials.

Analysis: Is Netflix Basic a goner?

Still with the resolution/price ratio, the fact ad-watching members are significantly more valuable, and the knowledge Netflix was actively hiding the plan from new subscribers, it felt like its days were numbered. Now it seems that speculation could be right on the money.

We reiterate that this change has only happened in Canada for the time being, and nothing has been announced about scrapping Netflix’s Basic plan in the U.S. or elsewhere. But if I were a betting man, I’d put money on Basic’s time coming to an end in the not too distant future, much like how Netflix's password sharing crackdown was tested abroad before it got to the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Tom's Guide reached out to Netflix for comment, and we will update this story if and when we receive a response.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.