Disney Plus brings its cheaper ad-based tier to the UK – 5 things you need to know

A TV, tablet and phone on an orange background showing the Disney Plus interface
(Image credit: DIsney)

Ten months on from the US launch of the ad-supported Disney Plus Basic subscription, the streaming service has launched its cheaper offering in the UK – with a different name and a few tweaks.

Disney Plus had already announced that its new 'Standard with Ads' plan (£4.99 a month) would be launching in the UK on November 1. We also knew that the 'Standard' plan (£7.99 a month, or £79.90 a year) would be capped at 1080p resolution without HDR, leaving the 'Premium' tier (£10.99 a month, or £109.90 a year) as the only way to experience Disney Plus in full 4K HDR glory with Dolby Atmos sound.

A TV on an orange background showing the Disney Plus interface

(Image credit: Disney)

But what we didn't know until today is exactly how the ad-supported plan's user experience would compare to its US equivalent, which launched back in December 2022. 

We've had a short demo of the new Disney Plus 'Standard with Ads' plan, so here's everything you need to know to help you decide whether it's going to be the way you watch Loki, Star Wars: Ahsoka and all of the best Disney Plus shows.

1. It costs the same as Netflix's ad-supported tier

Netflix was the first big streaming service to launch an ad-supported tier in the UK, and Disney's new 'Standard with Ads' equivalent has matched it in one important way: price. 

Both plans cost £4.99 in the UK, which is a different situation from the US where Netflix's cheapest subscription costs $1 a month more than its Disney rival. There are other similarities between the two tiers as well – both stream in 1080p quality, but don't let you download TV shows or movies.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Ad-supported planStandardPremium
Disney Plus£4.99 a month£7.99 a month£10.99 a month
Netflix£4.99 a month£10.99 a month£17.99 a month

The Disney Plus 'Standard with Ads' plan also supports two concurrent streams and gives you 5.1 audio wherever it's available (again, like Netflix's cheapest tier). But one difference between the two is that Disney Plus' new tier gives you access to its whole library, whereas Netflix locks a small number of titles due to licensing restrictions.

With Amazon recently confirming that its ad-supported Prime Video tier will land early next year in the US, UK, Canada, and Germany (with other regions to follow), it seems ad tiers are here to stay. 

2. You'll get an average of four minutes of ads per hour

The streaming giants seem to have settled on four minutes of ads per hour as the standard for their ad-supported tiers – and Disney Plus is the same.

As we've written previously, that ratio is pretty reasonable and sees Disney Plus match Netflix and Max (in the US) for the number of adverts you'll see on their cheapest tiers.

Two characters from The Bear TV show in a kitchen

(Image credit: Disney)

That said, there is also some evidence that ad-supported streaming tiers tend to slowly increase their ad-per-minute rate after they've launched – for example, stats shared with Business Insider by MediaRadar showed that, in the US, Disney Plus increased its ad load by 18% in its first six months, while Netflix did the same by 10%.

While that's something we'll be keeping an eye on, Disney Plus' new 'Standard with Ads' plan does have one benefit over some of its rivals.

3. The ads won't interrupt your movies

The Disney Plus 'Standard with Ads' plan treats movies and TV shows slightly differently when it comes to the placing of its adverts.

During TV shows, you'll be able to see where the breaks are in the show's timeline at the bottom of the screen, while a clock in the top-right corner will show you a countdown for the whole ad break (rather than just single ads) when it arrives.

Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther

The late Chadwick Boseman in his iconic role as King T'Challa. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

But Disney Plus says it's treating movies differently on the new cheapest tier, with the ads being limited to pre-rolls before the movie starts. Disney has confirmed to us that this is the case for all movies. 

Once those ads have run, your movie won't be interrupted again – which is a nice touch, even if it isn't yet clear how long Disney is committed to that being the case.

4. There are no ads in Junior Mode

Parents may be a little reticent to sign up to an ad-supported streaming service, for obvious reasons. But like Netflix and most other streaming services, Disney Plus says it won't serve any ads on its Junior Mode (previously called Kids Mode). 

Things get a little more complicated with its other types of profiles, which will serve different kinds of ads depending on what content you watch. You won't get ads on the service's hand-picked shows for ages '0 to 6' (irrespective of which kind of profile you're logged into), but content that's rated for slightly older audiences (for example, ages 6 plus, or 9 plus) will get restricted advertising that's relevant for those ages.

A scene from the Muppets Now

(Image credit: Disney)

Naturally, the types of advertising get less restrictive for older age groups who are watching more adult-themed shows. But kids, or families who are co-viewing with young kids, won't be blasted with inappropriate ads. Which makes sense for Disney Plus, considering it typically has a higher share of younger viewers compared to rival streaming services.

5. The Premium tier is now the only way to watch Disney Plus in 4K

The arrival of the Disney Plus 'Standard with Ads' tier in the UK has resulted in a slight shake-up of its other offerings – and not always for the better.

As you can see below, the middle 'Standard' tier no longer offers features like 4K HDR or Dolby Atmos sound. Those are now only available in the new 'Premium' tier.

Disney Plus – new subscription tiers in the UK

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Standard with AdsStandardPremium
Price£4.99 a month£7.99 a month / £79.90 a year£10.99 a month / £109.90 a year
Video qualityUp to 1080pUp to 1080pUp to 4K UHD and HDR
Concurrent streamsTwoTwoFour
AudioUp to 5.1 audioUp to 5.1 audioUp to Dolby Atmos audio

That £10.99 a month upper tier also gives you the option of four concurrent streams, compared to only two for the cheaper Disney Plus plans, which could come in handy if you live in a large Disney-watching household.

Considering that Disney Plus recently hiked the prices of its ad-free plan in the US (from $10.99 a month/$109.99 a year to $13.99 a month/$139.99 a year), it might be wise to sign up for the UK's annual Premium plan sooner rather than later if you're all-in on Disney. New shows promised for 2024 include the Tudor murder mystery drama Shardlake and a second series of Extraordinary (which we rate as one of the best Disney Plus shows).

Unfortunately, there's no option to pay for the 'Standard with Ads' plan annually to save even more money, but its £4.99 a month price could still be good enough to tempt a lot of Disney fans in these financially tricky times.

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Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.