“A cheaper version with ads” has always been the ultimate desperation move for streaming services, and while platforms like Hulu were able to build all of their success on a setup like that, there’s really nowhere to go if it doesn’t work other than bundling different ad-supported streaming services together for one flat fee as some kind of “package” deal powered by the internet cables going into your house. A “cable package,” if you will.
Netflix is clearly in desperation mode, with subscriber numbers failing to hit goals and the company responding by cracking down on password sharing, canning a bunch of animated projects, and laying off the staff of its Tudum fan site, all while talk of a potential ad-supported tier has gotten louder and louder. According to The New York Times, that cheaper version of Netflix might be coming sooner than anyone would’ve thought—as in, later this year.
That comes from a “recent note” passed along to employees, in which Netflix boss Reed Hastings indicated that the timeline for introducing the ad-supported version has moved up and that he wants them to “figure it out over the next year or two.” Netflix subscription prices range from $10 to $20 a month, and while we don’t know how much the ad-supported version of Netflix would cost, it seems like it would have to be pretty cheap to justify its existence. That’s especially the case if the crackdown on password sharing is particularly brutal, because without a cheap alternative, people might realize that it is possible to live without Netflix.
The internal note that The New York Times got its hands on apparently made a point to mention the success of HBO Max and Hulu, which have found ways to “maintain strong brands while offering an ad-supported service,” so Netflix seems confident that people won’t immediately start rebelling when it eventually launches this.