Netflix really doesn't want you to sign up to its ads-free basic tier

Man with feet resting on a table watching Netflix on TV
Netflix just made its ads-free basic tier harder to find. (Image credit: Shutterstock / Vantage_DS)

Netflix is pushing customers towards signing up to its ads-supported basic tier, despite suggesting it never would.

As spotted by streaming industry insider Andrew Freedman (and first reported by Cord Busters), Netflix is trying to encourage potential subscribers to sign up to its ads-supported basic tier, rather than its traditional basic tier.

Previously, customers who navigated to Netflix's sign up page were greeted with four tiers to choose from: basic with adverts, basic, standard, and premium. The latter three are not supported by ads, meaning viewers won't have to sit through five minutes of adverts for every hour of Netflix content they stream.

Now, however, those looking to purchase a subscription are only given three tiers to choose from, with the monthly priced $9.99 / £6.99 / ₹199 INR / AU$10.99 basic tier nowhere to be seen.

A screenshot of Netflix's sign-up page without the ads-free basic tier being available

Netflix's sign-up page doesn't display the ads-free basic tier. (Image credit: Netflix)

Or so it seems. Netflix's basic tier is still available to buy – you just have to do a little bit of digging in order to find it.

Specifically, you'll need to scroll down until you see some small print that reads 'Want more options? See all plans'. Click on the linked text and you'll be taken to a near-identical sign-up page, which includes the ads-free basic tier. This tier is slightly more expensive than the ads-supported option, but you won't have to sit through commercials, plus you have the option to download the best Netflix shows, best Netflix movies, and best Netflix documentaries to your device of choice. This tier allows you to watch Netflix content offline, too.

A screenshot of Netflix's sign-up page with the ads-free basic tier now visible

With a little digging, you can find the ads-free basic tier option. (Image credit: Netflix)

So, what's the big deal? Netflix's basic tiers only offer 720p resolution, so most viewers will opt for the standard or premium tiers, which give you better video quality, a higher resolution, and other bonuses, right?

Update: Netflix is improving the picture quality and number of simultaneous streams in the Basic with Ads plan.

Not necessarily. The current cost of living crisis means consumers are having to make big decisions about how they spend their money. That includes which streaming subscriptions – whether that's TV and movie platforms, or music streamers like Spotify – they're likely to keep or cancel.

With people having to make their money stretch further – or, in some cases, even struggling to pay their bills – a cheap, albeit ads-supported subscription to the world's best streaming service will surely appeal to some. Netflix, then, might think it's acting in consumers' best interests by putting its cheapest subscription tier front and center. As we mentioned, the company's non-ads basic tier costs more than its ads-free cousin, so why wouldn't Netflix push this one during a time of economic uncertainty?

A screenshot of an official poster for Stranger Things season 4, which shows the main cast

Stranger Things 4 helped Netflix bounce back from its subscriber woes. (Image credit: Netflix)

However, the problem lies in how Netflix is promoting its ads-free basic tier. By actively hiding its non-ads basic tier, Netflix is reducing consumer choice on its own sign-up page. That could be considered as poor customer service, as it deprives potential subscribers from seeing every option available to them.

It's a move that also flies in the face of what Netflix's executive team told its own shareholders. During Netflix's Q3 2022 earnings call, Greg Peters, Netflix's Chief Operating and Chief Product Officer, claimed the streaming giant would take a "pro-consumer approach" (per financial advice expert The Motley Fool) to providing consumers with its subscription options.

"As we stated before, we're not really trying to steer our members to one plan or another," Peters said. "We're trying to take a pro-consumer approach and sort of let them find and land on the right plan for them... And so, we really anticipate that this is going to be a pro-consumer model that will be more attractive, bring more members in because the consumer pricing price is low."

Peters made those comments after Netflix posted a net increase of 2.4 million subscribers in Q3 2022, which came after successive financial quarters where the company lost millions of customers and subsequently cancelled multiple, in-development shows. At the time, then, it seemed Netflix was buoyed by its subscriber-based turnaround and wanted to maintain that positivity by telling investors what they wanted to hear.

And yet here we are, four months after that earnings call, with Netflix burying one of its subscription tiers in the small print of its sign-up page. So what changed? The popularity (or rather, unpopularity) of Netflix's ads-based basic tier.

As we reported on January 9, analysis conducted by research firm Antenna suggested uptake on Netflix's ads-supported tier had been slow – incredibly so, in fact, with just 9% of new US subscribers signing up to this particular plan in the four months since launch.

Despite the sluggish start, Netflix President of Worldwide Advertising Jeremi Gorman suggested the company was "pleased with the growth we’re seeing" (per TechCrunch) and that they expected further uptake in the coming months as the ads-supported tier is rolled out in other world regions.

Reading between the lines, it seems Netflix isn't as pleased as it claims. The evidence suggests it's pushing potential subscribers to buy its ads-based basic tier instead of its non-ads one, which directly contradicts the company's previous comments on being consumer friendly. It's not a good look, Netflix, and you know it.

We've reached out to Netflix for an official comment on why it's ads-free basic tier has been hidden on its sign-up page. We'll update this article if we receive a response.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.