Netflix is hiding its cheapest ad-free plan — what you need to know

Netflix on a tablet
(Image credit: pixinoo / Shutterstock.com)

Netflix was always so resistant to add advertisements to its service, despite the growing number of competitors that were embracing ad-supported plans. But now that Netflix with ads is here, it seems like the company is pushing it quite hard, to the point where it appears to be hiding the equivalent ad-free tier.

If you go through Netflix’s sign-up process, you’ll find that you’re given three subscription options by default: Premium, Standard and Basic with Ads. The ad-free Basic option is missing, and only visible when you click the tiny “See all plans” option towards the bottom of the screen.

netflix subscription hiding plans

(Image credit: Netflix)

Above is the default screen everyone will see. Below is the option if you saw and clicked the See all plans option. The standout observation is that Netflix shows all four plans here, instead of three.

netflix subscription hiding plans

(Image credit: Netflix)

The major difference, of course, is that the Basic tier is totally ad-free, and has the option to download content for offline viewing. However, both are limited to 720p resolution, and content can only be watched on a single device at any given time. The question is, why would Netflix hide one of its tiers like this?

The question is, why would Netflix hide one of its tiers like this?

If I were to guess, it would be that Netflix is really pushing to promote its ad-supported tier — especially after reports that it only achieved 80% of its viewing targets. By pushing Basic with Ads over the ad-free Basic tier, it could help inform potential subscribers that they can get a cheaper subscription if they’re willing to accept commercials as part of the deal.

If anyone is not OK with advertising, then hiding the $10 Basic tier might just push them to the more expensive Standard tier — which costs $15.49 a month. Standard also has the added bonus of offering content in 1080p on up to two devices simultaneously. 

That's a win for Netflix, but a loss for anyone that would have otherwise picked the $10 option.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Earlier this month Reddit users (opens in new tab) spotted that Netflix had hidden the Standard subscription tier by default. Obviously, that has since changed, but the reasons why are similarly unclear. In fact, hiding the Standard plan in favor of the ad-free Basic tier is a really bizarre move. 

netflix subscription hiding plans

(Image credit: u/dendofyy/Reddit)

While it could be a mistake, this sort of practice does feel incredibly misleading — regardless of which tier has been hidden from sight. And if Netflix wants to keep three tiers on show for whatever aesthetic reason, I feet it needs to make the “See all plans” option a lot more obvious.

I’ve emailed Netflix to enquire about this change, and will update this story when I hear back. In the meantime, anyone hoping to sign up for Netflix needs to be aware that there are four subscriptions to choose from. No matter how well hidden one of them might be.

Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. 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 that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.