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Netflix’s ad-supported plan doesn’t work on Apple TV, “older” Chromecasts, PS3

A person's hand holding a TV remote control with a Netflix button.
Enlarge / Most smart TVs should work with Netflix’s new ad-supported plan. Somehow, it’s far more powerful, newer devices that may have issues. And the PS3.

Netflix’s newest offering, a $7-per-month “Basic with Ads” plan, comes with inherent compromises: five minutes of ads per hour, one device at a time, no downloads, 720p resolution, and some unavailable content. But there are also several device compatibility issues, including new devices.

On Netflix’s help center page for people encountering the error “Basic with Ads is not supported,” Netflix notes that “Basic with Ads isn’t supported on Apple TV.” “You’ll need to upgrade your Netflix plan to the Basic, Standard, or Premium plan,” Netflix advises, or else “use a different device.” That last bit links to Netflix’s list of officially supported devices, which unhelpfully shows an Apple TV logo with no footnotes or other details about its limitations. Netflix told 9to5 Mac in a statement that Apple TV support is “coming soon.”

The same is true for any Chromecast except the newest model, Chromecast with Google TV. “Basic with Ads is supported only on Chromecast with Google TV,” Netflix states, meaning that any model bought before September 2022—like the 4K version Google sold until then— is out of luck.

Beyond those large holes in Netflix’s coverage for “your favorite devices,” there are other devices and apps that won’t support a cheaper ad-infused plan:

  • iOS devices not updated to iOS 15 or later
  • Android devices on versions earlier than 7
  • The PlayStation 3
  • The Netflix app for Windows

On Linux systems, using Chrome (not Chromium) or Firefox (with DRM enabled in settings) should generally work with Netflix’s Basic with Ads plan.

Why does the ad-supported Netflix plan have so many asterisks for mostly stream-ready devices? There’s no immediate answer from Netflix (we’ve contacted the company for comment and clarification). One answer might be in how advertisements are being served: through Microsoft. Microsoft acquired programmatic advertising system Xandr from AT&T in 2021, and the company otherwise had far less experience serving ads in video than rivals like Google or Comcast, The Wall Street Journal reported. This doesn’t fully explain why Windows’ own Netflix app doesn’t support the ad plan, though.

Netflix also moved up its timeline for launching Basic with Ads from early 2023 to early November, reportedly to arrive before a similar plan comes from Disney+. Shunting compatibility issues down the timeline during a sped-up project is not that rare. It’s worth noting that when Netflix’s streaming services first launched, Microsoft was a key part of its limited compatibility. The tech giant’s Silverlight, a kind of pseudo-Flash with extensive DRM capabilities, was implemented to bring “Play Ready DRM” to Macs.

A Netflix statement said in July that Microsoft’s ad network “offered the flexibility to innovate over time on both the technology and sales side, as well as strong privacy protections for our members.” Some folks with perfectly reasonable streaming setups, perhaps eager to save a few dollars per month, might hope that flexible innovation streams their way.

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