Netflix May Be Introducing An Ad-Supported Tier As Soon As This Year

Netflix hasn't been doing so hot lately. The streaming service recently lost $54 billion overnight and is being sued by their shareholders for misleading them about company growth. In response, there have been a number of attempts to staunch the hemorrhaging viewership numbers and costs, including a crackdown on password sharing that they had been threatening for years and floating the idea of a lower-cost subscription tier with ads, similar to plans at Hulu and HBO Max. The plans would offer viewers the opportunity to see Netflix-exclusive movies and shows at a lower price point, but they would have to sit through advertisements as well. It feels like cable all over again, where you had to pay a premium for content and still watch ads. Capitalism, baby! 

It's important to note that subscribers who keep the current tier won't be subjected to ads, but there's always a chance of more price spikes. (Remember when Netflix was $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming? Those were the days.) The streamer clearly has trouble keeping their spending under control when they're shelling out $30 million per episode on "Stranger Things 4," and now it looks like they're going the ad-supported route sooner than later to take care of the costs. 

Pay to watch commercials!

According to The New York Times, a note to Netflix employees shared the accelerated timeline for an ad-supported plan rollout, potentially by the end of 2022. According to the Times' sources, the plan is to introduce the ad tier in the "final three months of the year." There was also another mention of the password-sharing crackdown, which might backfire if users decide to unsubscribe entirely.

Executives at Netflix were adamant for years that their service would never contain commercials, but it appears that they're going to eat those promises. People who want to keep up-to-date on Netflix's offerings will have to decide which is more important to them: their time or their money. I thought streaming was supposed to get us away from the ridiculousness of things like cable bundles, but we already have those with things like the ESPN+/Hulu/Disney+ combo plan and the add-on channels on streamers like Hulu and Prime Video, offering a'la carte smaller streaming services like Paramount+ or Discovery+ as add-ons to the overall Prime price. Hulu even offers live TV as a subscription option. 

The current Netflix plans in the U.S. start at $9.99, but that doesn't include HD playback and you can only watch on one screen at a time, which can be a big negative for families. The most popular plan is currently $15.49 per month, letting viewers watch on up to two screens at a time and including that sweet, sweet HD. If you want UltraHD or more screens, however, you're looking at $19.99 per month. A plan with ads would theoretically be cheaper than the current base plan, which means audiences would probably pay around $5 per month for access to the Netflix library with ads. There's no word yet on whether HD will be available on the ad-supported plan.

Other streaming services offer similar plans, like HBO Max's $10/month plan with ads, and it's a frustrating return to the very thing streaming was supposed to help save us from. Boo, streamers! Boooooo!