The code in the Netflix app suggests that the ad-supported version may have a disadvantage
According to language discovered in the Netflix app’s code by developer Steve Moser, Netflix may limit offline downloads to ad-free tiers.
Netflix currently has three tiers. You get standard definition content and the ability to watch TV on one screen at a time for $9.99 per month. For $14.99 per month, you get HD and the ability to watch on two screens simultaneously. You’ll have to pay $19.99 if you want to watch everything in UHD (with 4K and HDR). You will also be able to watch on four screens simultaneously.
It’s not surprising that Netflix would consider restricting offline downloads to those who pay for the ad-free version of the service. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos stated earlier this year that the ad-supported tier would not include all of the same content as the ad-free tier and that ad-supported tiers are intended to be a gateway tier that gives people a taste at a lower price. There’s also the issue of serving ads on offline content. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s difficult. Besides, Netflix already places other content behind paywalls, which could become standard.
However, Netflix has never considered offline downloads to be a benefit. When Netflix finally allowed offline downloads in 2016, Sarandos told CNBC that it was to help emerging markets where Wi-Fi was spotty. Netflix was already late to offline viewing at the time. For years, Amazon Prime allowed you to download content that you wanted to watch later. One would assume that those who have not yet subscribed to Netflix do so for reasons other than price, such as slow internet.
Microsoft announced in July that it would be Netflix’s ad tech and sales partner, essentially providing the infrastructure for serving ads on the new tier. Netflix’s new ad-supported tier is set to launch in 2023.