Netflix’s newest plan will block downloads of shows and movies

According to code found inside of the company’s iPhone app, Netflix isn’t planning to let users of its new ad-supported tier download shows and movies for offline viewing, removing a feature that customers like on the standard service.

Netflix’s move appears to be an effort to distinguish its soon-to-be-released service from its current offerings. The ad-supported version is scheduled to be released early next year, but hints about it are already present in the company’s iPhone app code.

It appears that users won’t be able to skip ads—a common move in streaming—or have playback controls during ad breaks, based on code discovered by developer Steve Moser and shared with Bloomberg News. According to text in the app, downloads are available on all plans except Netflix. Netflix refused to comment on the news. Since the service’s launch is still several months away, it is probable that the company’s plans are still in flux, and its approach might yet change.

Netflix isn’t planning to let users of its new ad-supported tier download shows and movies 

Despite the early signs, Netflix seems to be strictly limiting the frills on its ad-based service. With its standard plans, users can download content for viewing on airplanes, where internet access is unreliable. That absence might help Netflix upsell customers to its higher-end plans after they become hooked on the ad-supported version. Los Gatos, California-based Netflix has already said that it will not make all of its content available on the ad tier.

Netflix has been losing customers and facing competition from Walt Disney Co., Inc. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.’s HBO Max. It lost 1.3 million customers in the last quarter in the US and Canada, its largest region.

Disney’s Hulu, Warner Bros.’ HBO Max, and Comcast Corp’s Peacock all rely on ad-supported tiers to fuel growth. The budget versions of services like HBO Max also deactivate the downloading option.

In addition to the obvious ad references in its app, Netflix has hidden references to its ad expansion, including text about helping Netflix tailor ads to specific users. “Let’s set up your ad experience. We just need a few details to ensure you get the most relevant ads on Netflix. It will only take a moment, I promise!” one message reads.

Customers who are turned off by the service’s rising prices can opt for the ad-supported tier. The premium level, which includes 4K resolution and up to four streams at the same time, is $20 a month in the US.

Microsoft will serve as its sales and technology partner for the ad-based service’s advertising system in multiple regions, according to Netflix.

Picture credit: Chris Ratcliffe