Netflix Could Soon Eliminate Its Most Affordable ‘Basic’ Plan

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Netflix has been changing things around quite a bit since it began playing with ad-supported plans and cracking down on password sharing. Now, we’re seeing early signs that the streaming giant is toying with the idea of nixing its $9.99 Basic plan.

As of this weekend, Netflix has already eliminated the cheapest ad-free plan in Canada, where it was priced at $9.99 CAD, and that’s not a mistake. On Saturday, Netflix told The Canadian Press that it’s “phasing out the $9.99 ‘basic’ option from its price plans.”

This means Canadian Netflix subscribers will now be forced to choose between moving up to the Standard plan for $16.49 CAD per month or dropping down to “Standard with ads” for $5.99 CAD per month.

As in the US and other countries, the Netflix Basic plan offered unlimited ad-free viewing on one supported device in 720p quality — what Netflix calls “HD.” While that plan initially only provided SD streaming, Netflix upgraded it to 720p around the same time it launched its ad-supported tier last year.

Netflix’s ad-supported offering, “Basic with ads,” initially mirrored the Basic plan, offering the same resolution and single-screen viewing for $6.99 USD, or $5.99 CAD for subscribers in Canada. However, earlier this year, Netflix upgraded that to “Standard with ads,” mirroring the $15.49/month Standard plan, which offers full HD streaming on up to two supported devices.

A Sign of Things to Come?

That change put the $9.99 Basic plan in an awkward spot. Folks who are willing to live with a few ads can get a much better package for $3/month less, and that difference is even starker in Canada, where the “Standard with ads” is only $5.99 CAD. You’d have to really hate ads to pay $4/month more for lower quality and fewer screens.

Perhaps Netflix realized this and scrapped the plan due to a lack of interest, but it’s more likely the company did the math and figured out it could make more money from $5.99 plus ad revenue than from just $9.99 per month.

Either way, we wouldn’t recommend hoping this is only a Canadian change. Netflix has frequently used Canada as a testbed for new features before rolling them out to other countries — including the US.

For instance, Canada was one of the first four countries on the list when Netflix began its password-sharing crackdown earlier this year, along with New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain. When Netflix upgraded its ad-supported plan to “Standard with ads,” it came to Canada and Spain first. Notably, Netflix doesn’t offer an ad-supported streaming plan in New Zealand and Portugal, which may be the only reason those two countries weren’t on the list.

However, it was always Netflix’s intention to roll out these changes far and wide — and the company said as much when it announced them. After rolling out in four countries in February, the password-sharing crackdown hit the US in May, and the Standard with ads tier arrived only a few weeks after the rollout in Canada and Spain.

In this case, Netflix hasn’t said whether it plans to cancel the Basic plan elsewhere, but we wouldn’t count on it stopping at the 49th parallel. So far, Basic remains available in Spain and the other ten countries where “Standard with ads” is available, which includes Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

This could be a good sign, but it’s still likely that Netflix is using Canada to test the waters and see if it could be feasible to do the same elsewhere. Netflix executives have previously called Canada a “reliable predictor for the US,” making it a valuable smaller market where it can test plan and pricing changes before unleashing them on its much larger US subscriber base.

The good news for Canadian Basic subscribers is that they can stay on their $9.99/month plan as long as they don’t switch to another option or cancel their account. The Basic plan is already unavailable for new subscribers, and while it still appears as an option for current members, Netflix told The Canadian Press that it will be going away “in the near future.”

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