Netflix is finally getting the picture quality boost we've been waiting for

Netflix library
(Image credit: Netflix)

In its Q1 2023 letter to shareholders yesterday, Netflix announced it is upgrading its ad-supported tier with two features for free: the ability to stream on two devices simultaneously, and a jump from 720p to 1080p video quality.

The 720p resolution is the reason I haven't wanted to go anywhere near Netflix's Basic with Ads plan since it launched in November. We're in 2023, 1080p should be a basic streaming right (isn't that right, Now TV?)

But the two improvements bring the £4.99 / $6.99 / AU$6.99 tier closer to the service's slightly pricier Basic plan above it, which is not ad-supported and allows downloads on one device. Presumably, Netflix will eventually upgrade the image quality (currently 720p) and concurrent streams count (one) of the Basic tier as well, though if it doesn't the Basic with Ads plan could be seen as existing between the Basic and Standard offerings... depending on how much value you put on image quality. 

Basic with Ads is now also in line with the 1080p image quality offered by HBO's Max Ad-Lite and Hulu (With Ads) plans in the US, though Disney+'s ad-supported Basic service does offer 4K viewing.

Both new Netflix with Ads features have already gone live in Spain and Canada, with the other 10 ads markets (which include the UK, US and Australia) due to follow shortly.

"We believe these enhancements will make our offering even more attractive to a broader set of consumers and further strengthen engagement for existing and new subscribers to the ads plan," the letter to investors stated. Netflix noted that in the US, the ads plan now has a greater 'ARM' (Average Revenue per Membership) than its Standard tier through its combined subscription and ad revenue, so this push to attract a broader range of consumers is to further boost the plan's "healthy performance and trajectory".

Indeed, I was sceptical about the Netflix Basic with Ads tier when it arrived earlier this year – disruptive adverts and no download opportunity for only £2 / $3 / AU$4 less per month than the Basic tier's fee didn't seem all that compelling, not least when you factored in that the ads tier would start life with a compromised catalogue compared to the non-ads tiers.

But in my mind, these new features – 1080p streaming, in particular – make it a much more compelling tier of choice for those who cannot afford the £10.99 / $10.99 / AU$16.99 Standard plan (1080p, two concurrent streams, two devices for downloads). Netflix has also shared that it now has 95 per cent of content parity globally with its other plans, too. More bang for your buck is what the Basic with Ads plan needed – and now it has it.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.