Netflix launches a Spotify-like free tier – but only in Kenya

Netflix app on mobile
(Image credit: XanderSt / Shutterstock)

For the first time in its history, streaming giant Netflix has launched a free tier. 

At present, it’s coming exclusively to audiences in Kenya – and only to those using the Netflix app on an Android phone – but this could nonetheless mark a major shake-up of the company’s global subscription plans in the near future. 

Announcing the move in a press release, Netflix confirmed it’s “launching a free plan that allows people to enjoy Netflix ad-free on Android mobile phones in Kenya.” No payment information is required, either, with users simply needing to enter their email, confirm their age and create a password.

Signing up will give mobile users in Kenya access to a large portion of the streamer’s content library, as well as personalized recommendations, parental controls and profiles (including kids settings). 

It’s not yet clear just how many movies and TV shows will be made available to these users, but the company quotes original productions like Blood & Water, Bridgerton and Army of the Dead in its announcement. It’s possible, then, that only the streamer’s original content will form part of this free plan. 

A proven strategy

The move comes as Netflix attempts to broaden its subscriber base in low-yield markets. Since the new free tier is only available on Android mobile devices, those who enjoy Netflix’s content will be encouraged to upgrade to one of its paid plans in order to access the same (and larger) catalogue on their TV or laptop.

Given the efficacy of similar strategies employed by music streamers like Spotify, which offers an ad-supported free tier to users in an attempt to entice them into subscribing, it’s no wonder that Netflix has resorted to its first-ever complimentary option in select regions.

The streamer is open about its intentions, too. In the same press release, Netflix Product Innovation Director Cathy Conk clearly states that the company hopes “many of the people who try [its] free plan love Netflix so much that over time they upgrade to a full, paid subscription.”

There’s every chance Netflix could bring this option to other markets, too, should this try-before-you-buy strategy prove effective in Kenya. For our money, though, it’s unlikely to arrive in regions like the US and UK, given the streamer’s already-strong presence within those demographics.

Still, it’s refreshing to see a streaming service offer a full-blown free tier rather than dipping its toes in the water through occasional free trials, and it’s something we haven’t yet seen from the likes of Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus or HBO Max.

The latter did recently introduce a cheaper, ad-supported subscription tier to its service, though Netflix’s latest offering in Kenya betters HBO Max by omitting both charges and ads at the expense of limited usability. 

Time will tell whether this strategy bears fruit for Netflix, but given the market-leading success of its latest movies and TV shows, it’s no surprise to see the streamer bank on the quality of that content when it comes to attracting even more subscribers.

Axel Metz
Senior Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.