Netflix has celebrated the one-year anniversary of its ad-supported plan by announcing a big upgrade for the affordable tier – downloadable TV shows and movies.
In a blog post from Netflix's President of Advertising Amy Reinhard, the streaming giant says that downloads will "become available by the end of the week".
Netflix says the feature will come to all 12 regions where its ad-supported tier is available (including the US and UK) in that timeframe. Interestingly, Netflix told us that the downloaded TV shows and movies won't include ads either – they'll offer the same experience as its pricier plans.
As Netflix is keen to stress, this will make it the only ad-supported streaming service that allows users to download content from its library. Many of Netflix's rival, including Disney Plus and Max, also offer ad-supported tiers, with Disney Plus launching its new 'Standard with Ads' plan in the UK and Europe today.
Right now, though, Netflix's rivals only allow you to download films and TV series as a feature of their more expensive ad-free tiers. It'll be interesting to see if that changes once this upgrade to Netflix's ad-supported tier rolls out.
The new streaming battleground
Cheaper, ad-supported tiers are now a key battleground for many of the best streaming services. They offer a more affordable entry-point for viewers – helpful as ad-free tiers are becoming pricier – while also improving the 'average revenue per user' for streamers, who get additional revenue from ads.
That's why Netflix was particularly happy to note in its blog post that its ad-supported tier has now hit 15 million global monthly active users. It's also planning to bring new kinds of ads to that growing audience, including live sponsors for sports events and adverts that include QR codes.
On the plus side for viewers, Netflix says it's also planning to release a new ad format for binge watchers in early 2024. For example, you watch three consecutive episodes of one of the best Netflix shows, you'll get a fourth episode ad-free. It's unclear how this will work with the best Netflix movies and best Netflix documentaries, though.
Clearly, there has to be a little give-and-take with viewers in these ad-based tiers, particularly as some evidence shows that Netflix and Disney Plus both increased their ad load during the first six months of their ad-supported services launching.
The arrival of downloads to the Netflix 'Standard with adverts', then, is another potential carrot for viewers. Let's hope it forces other streaming services to do the same to improve the value offered by these cheaper tiers.
Update 1/11/23: We updated this article after getting confirmation from Netflix that downloads will be coming to its ad-supported tier in all 12 regions where that plan is available, and also that downloaded movies and TV shows won't contain ads.
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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.