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Opinion – Netflix’s anti-password sharing plan will surely backfire

Netflix has finally done it. Months of speculation re incoming anti-password sharing plans have manifested angering subscribers the world over. Are streaming platforms now completely out of touch? 

Once the undisputed king of the streaming farmyard, Netflix now seems hellbent on alienating its subscribers with a continuous slew of dodgy decisions. 

Tossing beloved shows away with the zest of a liberated hoarder, Netflix cancelled some 20 series last year, many of which barely survived a single season. 

Its prices, meanwhile, have been gradually hiked up year on year. The standard HD package – which offers viewing on two screens per account – rose from $7.99 in 2017 to $15.49 in 2022. The service claimed this increase was needed to bolster the quality of its catalogue. 

Many subscribers, however, believed the decision to charge per screen was motivated by an unspoken desire to prevent users from sharing account passwords. In hindsight, those folk may have been bang on the money. 

Reportedly the company’s biggest bugbear, over 100m users with access to its shows haven’t yet been monetised. Despite the fact it turns eye watering profits of between five and six billion each year, Netflix is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to customer altruism in 2023.

Netflix’s anti-password sharing guidelines 

This week, Netflix announced that only those living in a single household can share an account and password. How this in enforced is where a lot of the current controversy is coming from. 

Subscribers will have to select a trusted Wi-Fi network and log in while connected at least once every 31 days. All device IDs will essentially be on curfew to this single IP address. 

That means those on a short holiday, for instance, or using Netflix on their daily commute will be safe. Those travelling more long term, studying away, or on deployment, however, risk being locked out of any shared account on day 32. Boo.

According to Netflix, a link will also be sent to the account holder’s email address if a ‘suspicious’ device loads up the app outside of the homestead. This is to trigger a request for a four-digit code within a 15-minute window. Serious measures, right? 

As you’d expect, the announcement went down like a lead balloon with huge sections of the subscriber base, and we’ve a hunch that Netflix seriously underestimated the severity of the backlash.

Is Netflix completely out of touch? 

Analysis of Google data from John Slots revealed that searches for ‘cancel Netflix account’ went up by 733% globally on February 2. 

Furthermore, a Twitter search for the word Netflix instantly confirms that people are seriously p*ssed at the news. Jimmy Fallon has even taken to mocking the move on The Tonight Show.

As of right now, Netflix is still planning to enforce the guidelines by March, but a month of relentless slander and subscriber exits will have its executives sweating. Many of us already paying premium fees, meantime, will be sitting here thinking… yeh, you deserve it. 

Netflix is beholden to shareholders and business ethics that require constant growth, granted. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t insanely tone deaf to pick the pockets of current fans instead of innovating to bring about new value. 

Having obviously calculated the potential revenue lost from password sharing, Netflix has taken the offensive instead of being creative and driving new incentives to pay – and during a cost-of-living crisis, by the way. 

Putting aside the monetary aspect, though, the change is also a killer for those of us who revel in convenience. Many who aren’t even sharing passwords are threatening to leave purely for this reason.

The average US household uses 4.7 video subscription services, many of which will not require jumping through hoops every month. That’s not taking into account those who torrent and pirate content regularly either. Good luck getting that community to pay up. 

In every which way, this move from Netflix is just so ill advised and out of touch with the modern consumer. Failing a major pump of the breaks, we’re potentially looking at a historic fallout here. 

Could Netflix become the modern-day Blockbuster?