In a move that might foreshadow changes in the UK and beyond, Netflix, the global streaming titan, has terminated its low-cost ‘Basic’ tier in Canada.
This somewhat unexpected move has piqued the curiosity of consumers and industry experts alike, as they ponder what this could signify for the future of Netflix’s global strategy.
For UK consumers, this potential change could redefine their Netflix streaming experience.
If the company decides to follow the same pattern as in Canada, the economical ‘Basic’ tier may vanish, leaving the ad-supported ‘Standard With Ads’ as the lowest-cost option.
This means viewers will have to tolerate intermittent adverts during their binge-watching sessions to enjoy an affordable subscription, and potentially forfeit the ad-free convenience the ‘Basic’ tier currently offers (read ahead for the full pricing details).
The Evolution of Netflix’s Ad-Supported Tier
In late 2022, Netflix introduced a low-cost ad-supported tier in the UK (and other countries), initially named ‘Basic with Ads’.
This plan offered subscribers access to most of Netflix’s vast content library at the cost of enduring a few minutes of ads per hour, all at a reduced price of £4.99/month.
In April 2023, Netflix announced a major boost to this tier – upgrading its video quality from 720p to 1080p, and allowing for two simultaneous streams, matching the offerings of the higher-priced Standard tier.
This move prompted a name change from ‘Basic with Ads’ to ‘Standard with Ads’, reflecting its similarities to the Standard plan.
Netflix’s ‘Standard With Ads’ vs ‘Basic Tier’
Despite the upgrades, the ‘Standard with Ads’ tier maintained its attractive price point of £4.99/month.
This is a bargain when compared to the ad-free ‘Basic’ plan which is priced at £6.99/month – if you’re willing to watch adverts, that is.
While the ‘Standard with Ads’ tier saw significant enhancements, there are still a few limitations as compared to the other Netflix tiers.
Unlike the ‘Basic’ tier and the higher ones, the ad-supported plan does not allow users to download content for offline viewing. This is mainly because Netflix can’t show ads when users are offline.
Additionally, due to licensing restrictions, some films and TV series are not available on the ‘Standard with Ads’ tier. However, according to Netflix, the ad-supported tier has around 95% content parity globally with the ad-free tier.
With the upgrade, the ‘Standard with Ads’ plan became more closely aligned with the ‘Standard’ plan – both offering Full HD (1080p) streaming and the ability to watch on two devices at the same time.
The key difference is, of course, the presence of adverts on the cheaper tier and the lack thereof on the ‘Standard’ plan priced at £10.99/month.
Here’s how Netflix’s plans currently look in the UK:
- The Standard with Adverts Plan at £4.99/month – lets you stream content in Full HD (1080p), on 2 devices at a time, with adverts.
- The Basic Plan at £6.99/month – lets you stream content in HD (720p), on only one device at a time, without adverts.
- The Standard Plan at £10.99/month – lets you stream content in Full HD (1080p), on up to 2 devices at a time, without adverts.
- The Premium Plan at £15.99/month – lets you stream some content in UltraHD (4K), on up to 4 devices at a time, without adverts.
By keeping the ad-supported plan identical to the ‘Standard’ plan in some ways but at less than half the price, Netflix posed strong competition to other streaming services in the UK market.
Despite the presence of ads, the ‘Standard with Ads’ tier offered one of the cheapest streaming options in the region, making Netflix an even more compelling choice for users.
Netflix’s Basic Plan Gets Hidden
As we reported back in January, Netflix is really trying to push the Standard with Ads plan as its prominent lower-cost option.
Therefore, since then (and to this day), Netflix’s ‘Choose A Plan’ page for new customers no longer prominently shows the £6.99/month Basic tier, which is now hidden under a tiny text link.
After all, for an ad-supported tier to succeed, advertisers need eyeballs – which they won’t get if subscriber numbers aren’t high enough.
Perhaps that’s the reason for the January change, where Netflix made the Standard with Ads tier the default low-cost option for new subscribers.
Netflix’s Basic Tier Goes Away In Canada: Is The UK Next?
In a surprising move, Netflix recently discontinued its Basic tier in Canada, effectively making the ‘Standard with Ads’ the only low-cost subscription option for new subscribers in the country.
On its Plans help page in Canada, Netflix added the following explanation:
“The Basic plan is no longer available for new or rejoining members. If you are currently on the Basic plan, you can remain on this plan until you change plans or cancel your account.”
It’s worth remembering that Canada was also one of the first countries to get Netflix’s new ‘Extra Members’ scheme that’s part of Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing.
Therefore, as it stands, Netflix’s decision to phase out the Basic tier has raised speculation on whether Canada is serving as a test-bed for a broader roll-out of this new strategy.
The removal of the Basic tier has brought a significant shift to Netflix’s subscription offerings in Canada. The adjusted pricing over there is as follows:
- The ‘Standard with Ads’ plan is now priced at 5.99 CAD/month (approximately £3.60), enabling users to stream content in Full HD (1080p) on two devices simultaneously, with advertisements.
- The ‘Standard’ plan, available at 16.49 CAD/month (around £9.80), allows users to stream content in Full HD (1080p) on up to two devices at once, ad-free.
- The ‘Premium’ plan is priced at 20.99 CAD/month (roughly £12.50) and offers subscribers the chance to stream some content in UltraHD (4K), on up to four devices at the same time, also without any ads.
Extra member slots can be added to the ‘Standard’ and ‘Premium’ plans for an additional 7.99 CAD each per month, bringing a further element of flexibility to these tiers.
What Does This Mean For Netflix In The UK?
This restructuring of plans in Canada raises questions on whether Netflix intends to discontinue the Basic tier in other markets as well, including the UK.
If this happens, the ‘Standard with Ads’ could become the go-to option for budget-conscious streamers, a position that the Basic tier has traditionally occupied – but you’ll have to endure adverts.
As mentioned, back in January Netflix had made it harder to find the ad-free Basic plan in the UK. This move, combined with the recent changes in Canada, might signal the company’s intention to slowly phase out the Basic tier across its markets.
Such a strategy could help boost the adoption of the ‘Standard with Ads’ tier, which gives Netflix an additional revenue stream from ad placements.
We reached out to Netflix for comment and will update this article if the company chooses to respond.
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