Is Netflix's ad-supported plan worth it? These are the compromises for cheaper streaming, beyond the adverts

Netflix’s new tier is cheaper, but the compromises won’t be for everyone

Television with Netflix and remote
(Image credit: Image from freestocks)

Netflix's new tier has now launched. It's official name is 'Basic with Adverts', and as with Netflix’s other three tiers, there’s a phenomenal amount of content available, however it offers the cheapest option for the streaming platform. 

Given Netflix raised the price of all plans earlier this year, you may have been weighing up whether you wanted to keep paying out for the platform, and even comparing Netflix Vs Amazon Prime, Hulu and other big streamers in terms of getting your money's worth. 

Basic with ads represents a big price drop, but despite the name suggesting the only change is the addition of adverts, there are other compromises you have to make if you want to pay just $6.99 per month for your Netflix fix.

Read on to see if Netflix’s ad-supported plan is worth it for you and your family.

Netflix with adverts: What is it, and how does it work?

While Netflix’s three other tiers — ‘Basic’, ‘Standard’ and ‘Premium’ — are ad-free, the new $6.99-per-month ‘Basic with adverts’ plan is not. For enduring adverts, you’ll save between $3 and $13 per month on your Netflix subscription, depending on the tier you would have otherwise. 

Netflix says that you can expect around four-to-five minutes of ads per hour, but it’s not consistent and their appearance can be a touch surprising. Some are at the start and end of shows, and others come part-way through. They can’t be skipped, but they can be paused.

Like YouTube, you get an ad timer telling you how long you’ve got, so you’ll know if you’ve got time for a bathroom break at least. 

It's not a completely new idea for a streaming platform to have ads. If you've ever compared Netflix vs Hulu, you'll know that Hulu offers a similar ad-supported tier. 

Do you get the full catalogue?

Not quite. 'Basic with adverts has a limited number of films and TV programmes unavailable due to licensing restrictions,' Netflix cautions.

Unfortunately, you won’t know what these are until you sign up and search on your streaming device, with shows that can’t be viewed on the cheapest tier adorned with a red padlock icon. 

There certainly are key omissions, with fans spotting that the likes of Arrested Development, House of Cards, Peaky Blinders, New Girl, The Good Place, Knight Rider, Queen of the South, and Friday Night Lights all locked at launch.

Movies aren’t exempt either, with Rambo, 28 Days, Steve Jobs, Sing 2, The Bad Guys, The Hateful Eight and three of Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies all present on Netflix, but MIA on the Basic with Adverts tier.

Any other differences?

There are three other reasons why you may not want to subscribe to a more expensive Netflix tier.

The first is image quality. At 720p, ‘Basic with adverts’ only just qualifies as HD with a resolution of 1,280 x 720 which will look a bit grainy on modern televisions. Standard ($15.49) ups this to 1080p, but real AV obsessives will want Premium ($19.99) which grants you 4K with HDR in supported titles. Netflix's Spatial Audio is available on all tiers, however. 

The second issue is that you can’t download shows or movies for offline viewing, as you can with every other tier. The reason for this is pretty obvious if you think about it — without a live internet connection, Netflix can’t serve you adverts.

Finally, the cheapest Netflix tier also limits the number of concurrent streams to just one. In other words, you and your family can’t watch different shows on different screens as they can on Standard (up to two streams) or Premium (up to four streams). 

How do you change tiers?

If these restrictions don’t sound like problems to you, switching to Netflix’s ‘Basic with adverts’ tier is really straightforward.

Just sign into Netflix via a web browser, bring up the drop-down menu next to your profile icon and select ‘Account’. From there, select ‘Change plan’ and click the $6.99 ‘Basic with adverts’ option.

Is Netflix's ad-supported plan worth it? 

If you’re trying to save money but want your Netflix fix, then ‘Basic with adverts’ offers a solid option as long as you’re aware of the compromises. No offline shows could be a deal breaker if you regularly travel, and the video quality may be a tough pill to swallow if you’re used to Standard or Premium. 

Otherwise, assuming your favorite shows are still on there (check before you sign up!), then there’s no reason not to give Netflix’s ad-supported plan a go. You can always go back to a pricier membership if you change your mind, after all. 

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. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. 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.