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Earlier this year, Netflix made the move to restructure its current plan offerings. Gone was the ‘Basic’ Netflix plan in favor of a new low tier called ‘Standard with ads’. This forced T-Mobile to reassess their long-standing “Netflix On Us” benefit, as Netflix was not offering a grandfathered option.

T-Mobile had to make a choice – offer a like-for-like experience and provide the middle ‘Standard’ tier for their customers, or downgrade the benefit to ‘Standard with ads’. The decision was unfortunately the latter, and in the process T-Mobile heavily reduced the value of the benefit for many legacy plans.

Adding to the annoyance of this entire situation was Netflix cracking down on password sharing, which has also been a strain to subscribers given that the Netflix benefit was marketed as a “family benefit”.

This was met with an expected disgruntled response from many, with customers taking to social media to remark on the confusion of the change. Among the comments was another surprising revelation: the ads do come, but it seems to vary greatly based on internet connection, device, or VPN status.

Netflix also states in the support document for the plan that unless your device can update to an app version that lets the ads play, you will not be able to stream on it. If they can’t push the ads, you can’t even watch.

In the end, so long as it was the same Netflix but we have some ads to tolerate, life can go on. Right?

Yeah…about that.

‘Standard with Ads’ Also Restricts What You Can Watch

After the launch of the plan, many customers were noticing a second, under-communicated change to the ‘Standard with ads’ plan.

Certain content is unavailable to even watch on the plan at all, and prompts users to upgrade to a higher tier in order to view the content. This seems to apply to everything from older movies like Resident Evil, to past seasons of major shows like The Walking Dead.

When attempting to view the content, users are met with a lock icon instead of a play button. “Unavailable on an ad-supported plan due to licensing restrictions.” “Change Plans to Watch.”

As for what content is affected exactly, Netflix does not keep a standing list of what is or is not included with ‘Standard with ads’, so you just have to sign up and see. Though they do mention that the locks can show up in a variety of places, including:

  • In the Top 10 TV Shows or Top 10 Movies rows
  • When you search for something to watch
  • On the title page after you select a TV show or movie
  • Saved to your profile’s My List
  • In the Continue Watching row

This means highly-viewed content, or even content you have been able to view in the past is now subject to the lock if you were downgraded. Netflix does disclose this when signing up for the plan on their website. As a new subscriber, the power is in your hands to make that choice, but T-Mobile subscribers weren’t exactly in the same boat.

Netflix sign-up page for ‘Standard with ads’

T-Mobile Subscribers Didn’t See Content Locks Coming

Many T-Mobile customers were transitioned automatically to this plan, without ever needing to attend to a signup page. No changes were needed, and the transition was to be seamless. The ‘sell’ was to let things be and keep it moving.

Conveniently, though, nowhere in T-Mobile’s communication to customers or their support page does it mention that the content restriction was on the way. To quote the support document, T-Mobile states “…you’ll now receive Netflix Standard with ads, providing more features and benefits to you.” It is stated like a good news story, and misses the mark to set the expectation right about the content restrictions.

Automated T-Mobile announcement of the change.

It sounds like the ‘small number’ of TV shows and movies that aren’t supported on the plan are causing quite the stir with customers who were once used to the benefit from T-Mobile. The only way out is clear – pay up, or move on. Netflix does not disclose the exact list of shows on their website either.

It is worth noting that T-Mobile customers get this for free still, so they can feel out their individual watching needs to see if ‘Standard with ads’ is still a hit. These customers can even upgrade to regular Standard and pay the difference, which is nice. However, Netflix forcing new customers to roll the dice on ‘Standard with ads’ is not an ideal experience to entice and keep a new subscriber should the locks get in their way.

Overall, a messy endeavor on both sides so far for the new “Netflix On Us”. T-Mobile customers are starting to feel the squeeze from Netflix looking to get more out of their relationship with the benefit. Ads are bad enough – but now customers also have to hope what they want to watch isn’t too popular or part of an agreement where Netflix can’t slap extra ads into the viewing experience.

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