By Paula Alves
I confess that, since it was launched, I was curious to analyze Netflix’s “basic with ads” plan, the platform’s first package with advertisements.
While ad-supported services are nothing new to the market, in its 15 years as a streaming platform, Netflix has never worked with this subscription model.
In addition, the package had been announced during a troubled period for the company, when, in addition to a fluctuation in the number of subscribers, Netflix was losing ground to other competitors in the industry, in a true streaming war.
Unavailable titles show up in searches
As a Netflix subscriber since 2013, my initial impressions of its version with advertisements were not very different from what I always had on the platform.
The home and divisions of the “basic with ads” do not differ from other plans of the service, with titles appearing categorized in lists, whether they are indications, genres, rankings, etc.
An interesting point, however, is that Netflix is careful not to put unavailable series and movies in any of these sessions, so that if you don’t search for the specific title or for any production with which it is related, it will not will “accidentally” appear on the screen.
For those who don’t know, the titles I’m referring to are the Netflix movies and series that were left out of the “basic with ads” due to licensing issues. An issue that the company is trying to get around, but that does not prevent the appearance of productions in the cases mentioned, always accompanied by a padlock symbol preventing their play.
Although strategic on the part of Netflix, care is also a more correct choice for the public, which is not bombarded by streaming itself with productions that it cannot see.
This leads me to believe that the frustration I felt at not being able to watch The Good Place on the plane, for example, has much more to do with the fact that I am an old subscriber to the platform and know a lot about its catalogue.
For subscribers who are experiencing Netflix for the first time or who do not know much about its productions, it is likely that the shock will not be the same – even if the awareness that the user is being deprived of part of the experience does not cease to bother.
Advertisements are numerous and insistent
If in the interface the “basic with ads” didn’t cause me a lot of strangeness, the same can’t be said about the moment I pressed play on some of its productions.
Despite already knowing how the ads would work, in practice, I couldn’t help but be surprised (and annoyed) by the insistence with which the ads appeared on the screen.
In an episode from 1899, for example, the service’s drama and thriller series, I recorded no less than five blocks of advertisements over its fifty-minute runtime.
The first one, which appeared when I pressed play on the title, was quick, lasting 30 seconds, and had only one campaign reproduced. The others, however, took place over the course of the episode in spaces of about ten minutes and were grouped in blocks of two or three advertisements.
It is worth remembering that this ad distribution scheme is not new to many people, being used in a very similar way on Twitch, where some campaigns are run in sequence, throughout the transmission.
On Netflix, specifically, these insertions can be 60 or 75 seconds long and, although they do not happen in the climax of the narrative, it is inevitable that they impact the experience – especially if we are talking about productions in which there is a constant atmosphere of tension, such as that I watched.
According to Netflix, the advertisements shown are personalized according to the user. For this, they use both your interactions with the platform (most watched genres, for example) and your personal data provided (date of birth, gender and general location information based on IP address).
In my case, the types of advertisements that appeared were quite varied, ranging from car manufacturers, to digital banks, e-commerce stores, fast-food chains and shoe brands. A selection of advertisers, by the way, that was repeated several times throughout other titles and episodes in which I pressed play.
It is worth remembering that all these advertisements are part of a partnership between Netflix and Microsoft.
As a company that does not work with ads, Netflix only gives advertising space to those who provide the advertisements, which explains why the campaigns run are national and have a certain segmentation.
These ads obviously cannot be skipped during their transmission, but they can be paused and, at the top of the screen, it is possible to view their remaining time and the number of advertisements in the block.
Also, a curious point is that they are fixed throughout each film or series. Which means that when hovering the mouse over a title cursor, it is possible to see light yellow markings that show the moments in which they will appear.
Despite this, it is not possible to circumvent these notes: if you try to move forward or click in front of it, the user will see the ad in the same way.
Child Profile has no ads
Although the “basic with ads” allows serving only one screen at a time (720p), it lets the user create and switch to another profile, just like any other Netflix plan.
A curiosity, however, that I only discovered while using it, is that the children’s profile is already pre-installed in this platform package.
Free of advertisements, it does not allow you to increase your age rating (10 years), thus preventing adults from “cheating” the system and watching movies and series without advertising for it.
In its settings, it allows you to place a profile icon and change your name and language. But, in navigation, the child’s experience remains the same, being able to watch any of its titles, without interruptions.
Frustrating experience for former subscribers
Analyzing all this, I found that, in general, the “basic with ads” plan proved to be a good alternative for those who never had access to the Netflix catalog, but are curious to know the service’s productions.
The value is salty, being higher than other streams in the industry that do not have advertisements. Despite this, I understand users who still choose the Netflix package when opting for a subscription, given the platform’s scope in our country.
Although its cost is high, streaming has achieved a popularity that no other platform has registered yet and that draws the attention – or even is the only known one – of a large part of the Brazilian population.
Aside from these cases, the plan loses much of its shine for those who have already had the experience of subscribing to the service’s full catalog or even trying out other streams with a higher cost/benefit ratio.
Although the annoyance of advertisements is tolerable, after all we are talking about a “cheaper” package precisely because of them, the unavailability of certain productions is perhaps the catalog’s greatest problem. According to data from JustWatch, there are more than a thousand titles missing and there is a consequent frustration of their absence for those who know the productions.
Finally, another point that may weigh on many users and cause Netflix to lose even those who liked the “basic with ads” is its unavailability on some devices.
As a technology company that owes part of its success to the range it has always had in devices, restricting access can be a watershed in whether or not loyalty to your new plan.