Netflix Basic with Ads sounds like a great deal except for this one thing

Netflix Ads
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Netflix Basic with Ads is a good deal. It’s probably the right deal at the right time.

Every time I drive by a gas station, which seems to raise the prices in the time it takes me to go someplace and then drive home, leads me to believe we need these cost-cutting measures. Put another way, the Cost-of-Living Crisis isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

So, yes, I completely welcome the arrival this week of Netflix Basic with Ads.

I can live with sitting through a few ads. It’ll be like the old days when I would use the ad breaks to visit the bathroom or get a snack while commercial TV ads yelled at me from the other room.

This new ad tier could work, except for a major limitation that seems completely out of step with people’s current living room entertainment experiences.

Netflix Basic with Ads tops out at just 720p resolution (so does Netflix Basic without ads). That’s probably fine for any of the devices on our best tablets, best phones, and TVs no bigger than 19-inches but probably won’t look very good on your run-of-the-mill HDTV (1080p). It might look terrible on a 4K TV.

Not matching the TVs we own

Recent studies show that almost half of US consumers have 4K TVs and more than 80% own an HDTV, most of which you can safely assume are 1080p.

Basically, the savings Netflix is offering comes at multiple costs. One is a measure of your endurance for ads. The other is more bothersome: your ability to ignore sub-par, possibly fuzzy video.

Your best 4K and HDTVs will do their best to intelligently upscale lower-resolution imagery, but they can only do so much.

The 4K TVs, some well over 55 inches, we’ve been buying for a song for the last few years crave 4K content, and it’s only in the last few years that streaming services have started to support 4K content. However, 1080p video has been on the menu for years.

One caveat too many

I get that there are some limits on what you can get for $6.99 a month. Holding back some coveted content seems fair. The ads are fair. But skimping on quality is not only unfair to consumers, it might also be a bad marketing move for Netflix.

Surely the goal is to not only attract more subscribers but to upsell them. If these Netflix Basic with Ads customers only see low-quality video, what incentive do they have to pay more? While Netflix is clearly hoping people jump at the chance to pay more for better quality, I think new Netflix customers will wonder what all the fuss is about.

“This looks terrible. Why am I even paying for this?”

It may soon dawn on Netflix that this one caveat, this one carve away from the best Netflix experience, was a mistake. And then it’ll make at least 1080p (if not 4K) video part of the plan. Wait and see.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.