Netflix records five million monthly users for cheaper ad-supported subscription plan

Streaming giant's new service is aimed at boosting growth in an industry where new customers have been hard to come by

Netflix says it had 233 million paying members around the world at the end of the first quarter. AFP
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Netflix has said its new ad-supported subscription plan has attracted five million monthly active users, six months after its launch.

The $7-a-month plan, less than half the price of its most popular offering, is aimed at boosting growth in an industry where new streaming customers have been hard to come by.

The monthly users are not necessarily subscribers, as some people could be sharing plans.

But the announcement may allay some fears that the ad-supported offering got off to a slow start. Netflix had 233 million paying members around the world at the end of the first quarter.

The company shared the result at its first appearance at the upfronts, an annual ritual in which TV networks present their line-ups to media buyers in New York.

The streaming industry leader planned to host the event in-person at its Paris theatre, but shifted online after screenwriters went on strike and threatened to picket the venue.

The Netflix event caps what has been an unusual week for the industry. The upfronts were thrown into chaos by striking TV and film writers, who walked out on May 2.

Writers banging drums and chanting “no contract, no peace” marched in front of Walt Disney's presentation at the Javits Centre on Tuesday.

Actors who would normally attend the event largely refused to cross picket lines, leaving executives to read from teleprompters before audiences of ad buyers and journalists.

The strike also raised questions about whether the networks will be able to deliver some of the shows they have promoted by the time the new season starts in September.

Comcast's NBCUniversal opened its event on Monday with a musical number featuring Ted, an animated Teddy bear played by Seth MacFarlane, who is to get his own show on the Peacock streaming service.

But the company also acknowledged some high-level departures. The head of ad sales, Linda Yaccarino, left to become chief executive of Twitter. NBCUniversal’s TV chief Mark Lazarus wished her well from the stage.

“We’ve had some changes around here but the strength, expertise and spirit of this company remain not only intact, but stronger than ever,” Mr Lazarus said.

Fox's news, sports and reality TV personalities made up for the lack of actors at its event.

The broadcast network announced six new shows for the coming season – two dramas, two animated series and two game shows.

Disney’s ABC leaned heavily on its reality TV plans in its autumn schedule announcement, with returning shows including Dancing with the Stars and Bachelor in Paradise.

Warner Bros Discovery also promoted new unscripted programmes, including a travel show featuring comedian Conan O’Brien and a programme from actor Robert Downey Jr about restoring classic cars.

All of the companies emphasised their streaming businesses this week.

NBCUniversal announced it would stream a National Football League wild card play-off game exclusively on its Peacock service in January, a first for the league.

Disney recruited YouTube sports commentator Pat McAfee, who will broadcast his show on the company’s ESPN cable TV and online networks later this year.

Updated: May 18, 2023, 12:32 PM