Last summer, we predicted that Netflix's new ad-supported tier would ultimately turn out to be a good thing, even if it meant subscribers missing out on some key Netflix features. And after a slow start, it looks like Netflix's ad gamble is starting to pay off.
According to internal figures seen by Bloomberg, around 1 million people are now signed up to the ad-supported Netflix tier in the US. However as The Verge notes, there are some important caveats: the figures are at least a month old; they don't tell you whether more people are watching via account sharing. And the numbers appear to be new sign-ups, not people downgrading from full-fat Netflix subscriptions.
Better late than never?
Netflix was relatively late to the ad-funded party, with both HBO Max and Disney+ beating it to market in June 2021 and December 2022 respectively. And takeup of those services appears to have been faster.
According to analytics firm Antenna, within three months of launch ad-based subscribers accounted for 19% of new Netflix sign-ups compared to 21% for HBO Max and a whopping 36% for Disney+. However, Netflix has reportedly hit its viewership guarantees, which are the viewing figures it promised advertisers, so that's one less thing for the streaming service to worry about.
They're still very much a minority of Netflix subscribers. In the US, Netflix says it has 74 million users; around 1 million ad-funded subscribers are still very small potatoes right now.
However, that's before the long-promised crackdown on account sharing kicks in. When that happens the proportions could well shift if paying subscribers decide to cut back on their spending without cancelling Netflix completely. We still don't know exactly when that crackdown is going to begin in the US or in other markets such as the UK, but we know it's in the very near future.