Netflix Makes Some Popular Shows and Movies Free to Woo New Customers

The service hopes a sampling of hits like Stranger Things will grow subscribers

Episodes of popular Netflix shows like Stranger Things are now available for non-subscribers to sample. Netflix
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Netflix has been testing out a new free sample feature that lets non-paying members watch some of Netflix’s highest-performing original shows and movies.

The feature, called Netflix Watch Free, allows anyone to view some of Netflix’s original shows and movies that have found particular cultural resonance. The first episodes of Stranger Things, Spanish teen drama Elite, Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed series When They See Us, reality hit Love Is Blind and sitcom Grace and Frankie are all available to watch, as are the Netflix films Bird Box, Murder Mystery and The Two Popes.

A 30-second ad for Netflix plays before the free episodes or films begin, and upon reaching the program’s end, viewers are prompted to join the service in order to watch more of “everything on Netflix that everyone’s talking about.”

The test—which is restricted to web browsers—has been in the works since July, and is aimed at finding new ways to engage potential customers. The feature is available on globally, and all of the titles available for sampling are the same worldwide.

“We’re looking at different marketing promotions to attract new members and give them a great Netflix experience,” a Netflix spokesperson said about the feature.

The push to engage more viewers comes after two subsequent quarters of higher-than-usual subscription growth for Netflix as the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantines drove high rates of streaming viewership and other forms of at-home entertainment. Last quarter, the streaming giant added 10 million subscribers globally, including 2.9 million in the U.S. and Canada. Total subscribers worldwide have nearly reached 193 million.

Netflix has previously told investors it expects subscriber growth to slow in the second half of the year as behaviors change and demand from Covid-19 continues to level out.

The test also comes as Netflix faces increased competition from deep-pocketed competitors like Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max and Peacock. Many of those rival services, though not all of them, have opted to offer free trials to woo potential new customers.

Netflix has tested out limited free trials, including in India, one of its fastest-growing international markets, although that promotion has since been scrapped. The streamer has also offered some other giveaways, including promotional subscriptions, as perks to customers of certain wireless and internet providers.

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.