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Happy Netflix with Ads Day! Here’s How to Downgrade Your Account

Fair warning: You can't escape the ads and you don't get everything Netflix offers — not even its first original series, "House of Cards."

Netflix

Netflix

Netflix

The day has finally arrived: Netflix has ads.

On Thursday, the streaming giant officially released its “Basic with Ads” tier in the United States. The cheap(er) subscription plan includes four to five minutes of ads per hour, with each ad being about 15-30 seconds long. These spots play both before titles and in the middle of films and TV episodes. There’s certain exceptions; when new Netflix original films coming to the streamer, like “Knives Out 2,” all ads play before the movie starts. However, not all movies have the ad-tier option.

Four of the movies on the streamer’s current Top 10 (“The Bad Guys,” “Oblivion,” “Sing 2,” and “Man on a Ledge”) are unavailable on the plan. Those titles still appear in searches on the ad tier, but they’re marked with a red lock icon in the right-hand of its thumbnail. Clicking on an unavailable film opens up a window prompting the user to change their subscription in order to access the content.

Other movies that appear to be unavailable on the ad-plan include: “Five Feet Apart,” “A Knight’s Tale,” “Father Stu,” “Vampire Academy,” “The Duff,” “Still Alice,” Bond films “Skyfall” and “Casino Royale,” “Crimson Peak,” “Hail, Caesar,” “Uncharted,” “Morbius,” “Rambo,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Pineapple Express,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Imitation Game,” “The Mask of Zorro,” and “Hell or High Water.” Some TV shows that appear to be unavailable include “Peaky Blinders,” “Good Girls,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Ash vs. the Evil Dead,” “Arrested Development,” and “New Girl.”

Not all Netflix originals are available on the ad tier. For example, every show that DreamWorks Animation made for the streamer is unavailable, such as “She-Ra,” “Voltron,” “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts,” and spinoffs of movie franchises like “The Boss Baby,” “Kung-Fu Panda,” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” Notably, “House of Cards,” Netflix’s breakthrough original series, is also inaccessible.

According to a Netflix representative, the company does not have an official list of titles unavailable on the ad tier. What the tier does deliver is most Netflix content, with interruptions, at $6.99 per month. The ad-free basic plan is $9.99. Both of those tiers limit picture quality to 720p. Standard ($15.49) offers video quality at Full HD (1080p); premium ($19.99) gives you Ultra HD (4K) and supports HDR.

Other restrictions for the ads plan: Only one stream allowed at a time, no downloads, and a “limited amount” of movies and TV shows are not available at launch. (That’s due to licensing issues with studios like Lionsgate and Universal; the company stated it hopes to incorporate all content onto the tier.) Finally, the plan currently isn’t available on certain devices, most notably on Apple TVs.

Users in the United States, UK, Australia, Japan, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico may now access Basic With Ads and Spain comes online November 10. Current Netflix subscribers can alter their plans on the Netflix homepage by clicking your profile icon on the top right-hand corner and clicking. “account” on the dropdown menu. On the account details page, click “Change Plan” in the “Plan Details” section. Basic with Ads is the first option; click it, then continue and confirm the change.

Users who downgrade their subscriptions will be switched at the end date of the current billing period. Until then, they can access prior downloads and won’t see ads. To see what this brave new world look like right now, you have to create a new account — which is what we did.

Netflix ad screenshot

A Netflix screenshot for a Best Western ad

The verdict? Based on our experience, the streamer still seems to be in the process of setting up shop. We clicked on several titles that could be watched without a commercial break. For those titles that do have ads, it’s a 15-30-second commercial that can’t be skipped, with a timer indicating when the program will resume. If you’re watching on a computer and change to a new tab or browser window, the ad will pause and wait for your return.

Initial advertisers appeared to tackle all ad brackets. They included Apartments.com, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Best Western, Smart Bed, Booking.com, Prada, and Cadillac. There was a movie spot, for Universal’s “She Said;” with less than a week before midterm voting, no political ads showed.

During a program, yellow marks on a progress bar note ad breaks. They range from a single 15-second commercial to a 75-second spot with three to four ads. Based on our highly unscientific sample, the number of ad breaks vary from title to title and episode to episode. The first episode of “Stranger Things” had three ad breaks, while the first episode of “Glow” had two. The film “It” had only one.

As for the ad experience: There’s no escape. If you exit a streaming window at any time during the ad break, the ad break will refresh and start over when you return. Skip ahead in the episode and you will immediately get an ad break. However, if you exit the window while a show is playing and go back, the show will resume without activating an ad break.

 

In its earliest days, before it debuted original content, Netflix sold itself on the ability to watch shows at home uninterrupted. As recently as its Q4 2019 earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings stated that “We want to be the safe respite where you can explore, get stimulated, have fun, enjoy, relax — and have none of the controversy around exploiting users with advertising.”

Of course, that was before the streaming wars shifted into high gear, and before Netflix saw a precipitous drop in its subscriber base during the first quarter of 2022, and before its stock hit a 52-week low. That set off the mad scramble to embrace advertising. Like Netflix’s attempts to curb password sharing via “profile transfers,” an ad-based plan can help open the streamer to new audiences or convince current subscribers to downgrade instead of cancelling.

Netflix already won by launching its ad-tier a month before Disney+; that launches December 8 at $7.99, a dollar more than its Netflix equivalent. With the looming threat of recession, lower-price tiers may help mitigate losses. Apple TV+ and Prime Video (which includes ad-based subsidiary Amazon Freevee) are the only two major streamers without ad-based plans — for now.

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