Netflix’s new ad-supported plan rumored to miss big feature

Advertising looks like it isn't the only important difference between Netflix's cheapest plan and its pricier options

Netflix app shown on TV
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're using Netflix on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, it looks like the forthcoming budget subscription service isn't for you. Not only will Netflix's cheapest subscription insert ads into your viewing, but it'll prevent you from downloading shows and films for offline viewing.

That's according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who reports (opens in new tab) that developer Steve Moser found the text "Downloads available on all plans except Netflix with ads" inside the iPhone app. When approached for comment, Netflix declined. Which sounds like a confirmation to me, although of course it's possible that the firm simply hasn't decided whether or not to limit the feature yet.

My money's on a limit, though: just like Spotify or HBO Max, if you want offline content you'll need to pay for it.

Netflix screenshot showing American Made movie in number one spot

(Image credit: Future)

What to expect from Netflix's cheapest plan

We won't see the new service for a few months yet, but we're starting to get a pretty good picture of what's involved. In addition to the block on downloads, the code also indicates that advertising won't be skippable and that the usual playback controls will be disabled while ads are playing. 

Unskippable ads and no offline viewing are par for the course for free versions of streaming services, of course, but it'll be interesting to see if Netflix users are willing to pay money for this when Netflix has already said that it won't offer all of its content on the ad-funded tier – a tier which, while cheaper by Netflix standards, isn't free like Amazon's Freevee and is likely to cost more than Apple TV+, which doesn't have as much content as Netflix but which offers a much nicer and ad-free viewing experience

These are tough times for Netflix, which isn't delivering the stratospheric growth its investors had become used to: it's shedding subscribers in key markets such as the US as many of us tighten our belts and focus on getting the most bang for our streaming buck. If it makes its ad-funded tier too poor compared to the full-fat service, it might not get as many new subscribers as it hopes.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).