New Netflix ad-supported subscription tier will block download function - report

Netflix logo on a smartphone
The new tier is coming, but a release date hasn't yet been announced. Photo credit: Getty Images

Netflix has been signalling its intention to launch a cheaper, ad-supported subscription tier for some time now, and has signed up Microsoft as a partner for the move.

However the cheaper tier may also have an additional downside as well as adverts - the inability to download shows.

Currently, Netflix makes a selection of shows and films available to download on its apps, allowing users to watch them offline.

But analysis of code in the new Netflix app seems to indicate that only those paying for one of the more expensive subscriptions will be able to do so in the future.

Developer Steve Moser posted details to his website The Tape Drive, saying it wasn't surprising given that many other streaming services only work online.

According to his analysis, the code says: "Downloads available on all plans except Netflix with ads."

Other text in the app may indicate users will have some control over the types of ads shown to them.

"Now, let's set up your ad experience. We just need a few details to make sure you get the most relevant ads on Netflix. It’ll be really quick, we promise!" the code said.

Roy Morgan data from early 2021 showed Netflix was Aotearoa's most popular subscription platform with 2,141,000 subscribers, well ahead of Sky's 1,248,000.

All up, 2.8 million people in Aotearoa aged 14 and over watch subscription television in a month, which is over two-thirds of all New Zealanders.

Netflix hasn't revealed when its ad-supported tier will go live either overseas or in New Zealand - but it's widely expected to launch at the beginning of 2023, at least in some territories.

The company has also been looking to crack down on password sharing - or at least monetise it - as it looks to increase revenue.

Chengyi Long, director of product innovation at Netflix, said earlier this year that sharing accounts was "impacting the company's ability to invest in new movies and television shows".

An early trial in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru was understood to have caused some confusion in the countries, with some members being asked to pay more and others left alone.

A second trial was launched in July in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Users there are prompted to pay extra if they use an account outside their nominated 'primary' household for over two weeks.

Depending on where they are located, this costs an additional NZ$1.30 to NZ$3.30 per month.