Netflix’s ad-supported price just tipped — and it’s bad news

Woman with popcorn bowl holding remote to watch Netflix on television
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Anybody hoping that the upcoming ad-supported version of Netflix will slash the price down to a couple of dollars a month is set to be sorely disappointed, according to Bloomberg.

The site’s sources say that the new tier will set users back between $7 and $9 a month, which is the cheapest subscription yet, but not by all that much. 

Currently, the lowest ‘Basic’ tier costs $9.99, gives you a basic 480p experience and provides access on one device at a time. Alternatively, you can pay $15.49 for HD and up to two screens at a time, or $19.99 for UHD and four concurrent streams.

While the $1 to $3 saving on the lowest tier may not sound all that enticing, we don’t actually know whether the visual quality and concurrent streams will match Basic, Standard or Premium yet. Though Bloomberg does confirm the earlier report that downloading shows will be disabled — presumably because of the difficulty of serving and monitoring ad performance on offline devices.

The relatively modest saving could also reflect Netflix’s determination not to overload subscribers with adverts, forcing them to turn off in frustration. The company is, according to Bloomberg, trying to “strike a careful balance between reaching a more cost-conscious consumer while still offering a pleasant experience.” 

This, according to those in the know, means around four minutes of ads per hour. That’s around 6.6% ads to 93.4% actual content, which is certainly lower than cable networks which can go as high as 20 minutes worth of ads per hour. 

The plan is to put adverts before and during shows, but not afterwards — and we’ve already heard that original movies won’t be interrupted. Kids’ shows will also reportedly be exempt, according to an earlier Bloomberg piece.

The ad-supported tier is pencilled in for the last three months of 2022, starting in “at least a half dozen markets”, but it’s not clear how appealing this option will prove to be to subscribers who are pretty hostile to ads in general. 

Earlier this month, Deadline polled 1,000 “entertainment fans” on their opinion about ad-supported streaming. Just 17% agreed with the statement “I am interested in paying less for an ad-supported tier if there is no free tier.”

Maybe that will be enough for Netflix — after all, it’s still a win if subscribers on the other tiers look at the ad-supported offering and decide to stick where they are. It’s only a loss if they decide to unsubscribe altogether. 

Next: The Netflix supported ad-tier could land as soon as this year. And there's a new Netflix No. 1 show with Echoes. And the reviews are truly terrible. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.