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Netflix’s ad-supported tier launches at $6.99—but there are compromises

A still from <em>Stranger Things</em>, one of Netflix's biggest shows.
Enlarge / A still from Stranger Things, one of Netflix’s biggest shows.


Today, Netflix launched “Basic with Ads,” its previously announced ad-supported subscription tier, in the US and several other countries. At $6.99 monthly, it’s the cheapest Netflix subscription option, but it comes with some notable compromises.

The countries to get Basic with Ads today include the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan, Korea, and Brazil; it first launched two days ago in Canada and Mexico.

Subscribers to Basic with Ads will see up to five minutes of ads per hour, including ads that play before episodes and some that play in the middle of them—the industry calls these “pre-roll” and “midroll” ads, respectively. Netflix says certain movies will only have pre-roll ads.

Ads won’t be the only limitations in this cheaper subscription tier, though. Basic with Ads will only stream to one device at a time, and it won’t support downloading videos for viewing on the airplane or other times when you don’t have Internet access.

Subscribers won’t be able to stream at a resolution higher than 720p, which is pretty low for just about everyone today in this age of affordable 50-inch-or-bigger TVs. Plus, specific licensing deal details mean up to 10 percent of Netflix’s library won’t be available at this tier.

Many competing streaming services have already introduced lower-priced ad-supported options, including HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+, among others.

Mega-success Disney+ plans to follow in just a few weeks with its own ad-supported tier, which will cost $1 more than the one Netflix just introduced. Disney+ will also be raising the prices of its other tiers, but Netflix isn’t doing that right now, though it has done so many times in the past.

Netflix has long been resistant to launching an ad-supported tier, but the company has continued to face an uphill financial battle as it spends big on content but faces obstacles like greatly increased competition from newly launched streaming services and user behaviors like password sharing.

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