Netflix with ads is going to fix one of its biggest problems

Netflix on TV with remote control in foreground
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Netflix with ads launched with some pretty heavy caveats, beyond the presence of commercials. One of those limitations is Netflix capped the plan’s video resolution at 720p. And in 2023, a year where 4K video is everywhere and 8K is on the horizon, 720p is not good enough. 

Thankfully that’s going to change.

Netflix has announced, as part of its recent earnings call, that Netflix with ads subscribers will soon be able to enjoy their content in 1080p. What’s more, subscribers on the ad-supported tier will be able to stream in two places at once — putting the plan on par with Netflix’s ad-free “Standard” subscription.

This news comes around six months after Netflix announced it was upgrading the Basic plan from 480p to 720p resolution. If you agree 720p isn’t good enough, then offering 480p resolution is essentially a crime against nature. However in this instance there's no mention of the ad-free Basic tier getting a resolution upgrade.

Netflix has announced that the viewing upgrades will be coming to all 12 markets where Netflix with ads is available, starting with Canada and Spain. It’s not clear when the likes of the U.S. or U.K. will get this upgrade, but it shouldn’t take too long to start rolling out. 

Netflix with ads — no word on how this affects price 

Netflix hasn’t revealed whether these upgrades will affect the price of the ad-supported tier. Currently Netflix’s Basic with ads tier costs $7 a month, while the Basic and Standard tiers cost $10 and $15.49, respectively. 

Considering the purpose of having commercials on Netflix is to offer a lower-priced subscription, raising it any higher would risk clashing with the Basic plan. Given the current economic conditions, people are more likely to focus more on the price of a service than the special features. 

The Basic tier may be limited, but it’s also ad-free, which would put the ad-supported tier at a disadvantage if the price were to increase. If Netflix wants to increase the price of the ad-supported tier, then it’s going to have to kill off the Basic plan first. Something that does seem likely considering the plan is hidden by default when you sign up for Netflix.

Netflix with ads’ other problems will still remain 

Pineapple Express is not available on Netflix with ads

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

Boosting the resolution is going to go a long way to solving one of Netflix with ads’ biggest problems. During our testing of the initial service, Tom’s Guide Streaming Editor Henry T Casey found that the loss of visual fidelity really killed the mood — even on a wired internet connection. 

Unfortunately no amount of technical upgrade can change the fact Netflix content was not built to include ad-breaks. The jump from a high-brow drama like The Crown into an ad for a Chevy Silverado, in a place that wasn’t supposed to have a break, will never not be jarring. 

Likewise better resolution won’t change the fact that certain shows are missing, and offline downloads aren’t allowed. All these things need to be considered if you’re thinking of signing up for Netflix, and considering going down the ad-supported route.

But hey, progress is progress. For all its flaws, we’re definitely not going to complain about Netflix improving its services — even if 720p has stuck around far longer than it should have. 

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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.