Netflix is raising its prices to 58 million US subscribers

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix is raising its U.S. prices by 13 percent to 18 percent, its biggest increase since the company launched its streaming service 12 years ago.

Its most popular plan will see the largest hike, to $13 per month from $11. That option offers high-definition streaming on up to two different internet-connected devices simultaneously. Even at the higher price, that plan is still a few dollars cheaper than HBO, whose streaming service charges $15 per month.

The extra cash will help to pay for Netflix’s huge investment in original shows and films and finance the heavy debt it has assumed to ward off rivals such as Amazon, Disney and AT&T.

Read More: Everything coming to, and leaving Netflix in January 2019

This marks the fourth time that Netflix has raised its U.S. prices; the last hike came in late 2017 . But this is the first time that higher prices will hit all 58 million U.S. subscribers, the number Netflix reported at the end of September.

Previously, Netflix had continued to offer a basic, $8-a-month streaming plan while raising rates on more comprehensive plans with better video quality and options to watch simultaneously on different devices.

This time, the price for the cheapest plan is going up to $9 per month. A premium plan offering ultra-high definition will jump to $16 per month from $14.

The new prices will immediately affect all new subscribers and then roll out to existing customers during the next three months. Customers in about 40 Latin America countries where Netflix bills in U.S. currency will also be affected, excepting key international markets such as Mexico and Brazil.

With Apple also widely expected to join the video-streaming fray, the competition for programming is enabling top directors, writers and actors to charge more for their talents. That has intensified financial pressure on Netflix, which hasn’t been bringing in enough money to pay for all its programming and other business expenses.

The company burned through about $3 billion last year and is expecting to do so again this year. To offset the negative cash flow, Netflix has been borrowing heavily to pay for programming. The Los Gatos, California, company had accumulated nearly $12 billion in debt before borrowing another $2 billion in an October bond offering.

Concerns about the stiffening competition and Netflix’s ability to sustain its current leadership in video streaming has caused the company’s stock price to slide by 21 percent from its peak of $423.21 reached last June. The shares stood at $332.94 heading into Tuesday’s trading session.

Netflix had nearly 79 million subscribers outside the U.S. as of September.

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