Netflix has a problem. After years of booming growth, its subscriber base is shrinking. Not only are people who signed up during lockdown deciding to cancel, but it looks like long-term subscribers are also weighing up whether or not Netflix is worth paying for. I’m one of them.
I’ve had Netflix for years, and it often served a purpose, letting me waste a few hours here and there, or jumping on the latest ‘must see’ show the streaming service had acquired.
But, I’ve been increasingly disillusioned with it. Those ‘must see’ shows and movies seem to be cropping up less frequently. I’ve grown bored of Stranger Things and Bridgerton and didn’t make it past the first episode of the Umbrella Academy. I’ve been loving The Witcher, but the gap between seasons has left me wondering what I’m paying the subscription for. Some programs I’ve enjoyed, such as I’m Not Okay With This, were abruptly canceled. My plans about getting my superhero fix elsewhere with Jupiter's Legacy were scuppered… by Netflix also canceling that after one season.
Netflix’s habit of canceling programs after a series or two actually left me more hesitant to start new series in case they got the chop. The fact that my Netflix subscription has risen in price pretty much every year while charging me extra for things like 4K (which come as standard with cheaper streaming services), has led to me seriously considering my subscription.
Many of us are facing a cost of living crisis, and the growing number of subscriptions some of us have taken out are now feeling more of a folly by the day – especially if we feel we’re not really making the most out of those subscriptions.
Last year, I stumbled upon perhaps the best Netflix alternative – and it didn’t cost me a penny. On Halloween, I had a desire to watch Scream – a film I’d not seen for years. However, neither Netflix or Amazon Prime Video had it (in the UK, at least).
I’d never considered the service before, as I associated IMDb with the old Internet Movie Database website, which was a good place to moan about films and watch trailers. I assumed because it was free, streaming quality would be awful, and the fact that it would be streamed ‘with ads’ made me think that anything I watched would be constantly interrupted with unskippable adverts.
YouTube has become increasingly obnoxious with its ads, putting them into videos seemingly at random, which can destroy the flow of a scene, or unforgivably interrupt a particularly long and noodly guitar solo.
However, I really wanted to watch Scream, so I thought I’d give it a go. And I was pleasantly surprised. Not by the film, that remains excellent, but by the service.
Streaming quality was perfectly good, and while it won’t compete with Netflix’s 4K HDR showcases, for a mid-90’s film, it was fine.
Even better, the advert breaks weren’t excessive or long. In fact, I probably saw fewer adverts while watching a movie on Freevee then when I’ve watched a movie on TV.
With a good mix of movies and programs, including originals, and for free, Freevee has made my Netflix account seem even more of a waste of money. It’s little surprise that Netflix is looking into a cheaper ad-supported subscription tier.
It’ll need to do something, as Freevee has shown me I can get some great entertainment without having to spend money on a subscription.
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.