Categories: Gaming

With Netflix’s ads tier, you never know what you’re going to get

Clicking on anything on Netflix’s new ad tier is a roll of the dice: you never know how many ads you might have to go through.

Netflix Basic with ads is finally here, offering a cheaper Netflix plan for $6.99 a month with the tradeoff that you might need to watch some ads with your movies and TV shows. I spent some time on Thursday fiddling with a new account at the level, and while the experience of using Netflix was largely the same, I was struck by how unpredictable how many ads I would have to see.

a:hover]:text-black [&>a]:shadow-underline-grey-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black text-grey-13″>You probably won’t pull this face after seeing a third ad.
a:hover]:text-black [&>a]:shadow-underline-grey-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black text-grey-63″>Screenshot by Jay Peters / The Verge

Netflix says you can expect one “an average of 4 to 5 minutes of ads per hour.”

That’s about what I experienced too, but I was surprised by when the ads may appear. It’s not like broadcast TV where you knew exactly when and, oftentimes, how many ads you’d have to go through before the show came back. Here are a few of the variations I’ve experienced:

As for the ads themselves, they are pretty standard online video ads. With my brand new account, I was shown ads for things like cars, hotels, cruises, jewelry, and fragrances. Netflix says ads are 15 or 30 seconds long, which is in line with my experience. You can pause them, but you can’t skip them, although Netflix conveniently counts the length of the ad pause in the top-right corner of the screen.

A big downside to the ad tier is that some things are just not available to watch. Those shows and movies are marked by a small red padlock in the top right corner. If you see that, you can’t watch the show.

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a:hover]:text-black [&>a]:shadow-underline-grey-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black text-grey-13″>There might be dozens of us who want to watch Arrested Developmentbut you can’t do that on Basic with Ads.
a:hover]:text-black [&>a]:shadow-underline-grey-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black text-grey-63″>Screenshot by Jay Peters / The Verge

You can Click on things with a padlock. On the web, Netflix conveniently takes you to a new screen that allows you to instantly upgrade to a more expensive tier with access to everything. On iOS, Netflix only suggests that you choose an ad-free subscription, but doesn’t direct you to anything, probably because of Apple’s restrictive App Store rules.

Netflix has signaled that some things would not be available at the ad level due to licensing issues, so it’s not exactly a shock. In my short time with the ad tier, I didn’t find too many padlocks, but there were a few surprises.

Arrested Development, which first aired on Fox but got new seasons on Netflix, is completely unavailable to stream. Four of the top 10 movies in the US today (including the top slot, the bad guys) have the red padlock. And I saw a lot of padlocks in search results for ‘classic movies’ like skyfall, 28 daysand The imitation game. Since there’s no real way to know if something isn’t available until you search for it, it’s a problem you’ll have to live with if you choose the ad tier (until a kind soul puts together a list of what’s blocked).

Netflix Basic with ads is exactly what I expected: it’s Netflix, with ads. If that’s something you can live with, and you’re okay with other compromises like 720p video quality and no offline downloads, it might be worth saving a few bucks with the cheaper tier. Personally, I stick with the no-ads options as I see enough ads on the web already.


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