The Next Media Inconvenience: Netflix password sharing crackdowns

+LOVE+IS+%28NOT%29+SHARING+A+PASSWORD%3A+Netflix%E2%80%99s+response+to+their+greatest+loss+of+profits+in+history+may+further+isolate+its+already+dwindling+audience.

Sophia Ho

LOVE IS (NOT) SHARING A PASSWORD: Netflix’s response to their greatest loss of profits in history may further isolate its already dwindling audience.

Karen Wang, News Editor

“Love is sharing a password,” the official Netflix Twitter account tweeted in March of 2017. But this is apparently not so, as Netflix accidentally released new password-sharing crackdowns on its U.S. help page in early February. Although currently in trial, these soon-to-come policies represent an unsustainable solution to a problem that will only pose an inconvenience to Netflix’s subscribers. Netflix’s concurrent attempts to create more affordable streaming options may also be overlooked as a result.

Currently in pilot in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru, Netflix’s new policy requires users to log in every 31 days on a central home network to confirm service usage within one household. Those who log in from other locations will face blockage, unless they pay a fee typical to three dollars a month for each additional user. 

“We’ve got folks that are watching Netflix who aren’t paying us as part of basically borrowing somebody else’s credentials,” Netflix chief operating officer Gregory Peters said to The Streamable. “So we’ve been working hard at this and trying to do some sort of thoughtful experimentation to let our members speak to us in terms of what set of solutions work for them.”

Ironically, additional paid users will be expected to create their own username and password under the main account holder’s jurisdiction. College students, in particular, have expressed rightful dissatisfaction with this policy as visiting home every single month is completely out of the question for most. For those who want to use Netflix while traveling, new policies state that a temporary code may be provided for unblocked access for seven consecutive days. In essence, this overlooks those who travel for a living and students who do not live with their immediate family, serving as an inconvenience driven by corporate greed.

Netflix lost nearly a million subscribers in the second quarter of 2022, the biggest in company history, according to NPR.”

Under intense competition from streaming services like Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max, Netflix lost nearly a million subscribers in the second quarter of 2022, the biggest in company history, according to NPR. Netflix estimates that nearly 100 million users are sharing passwords beyond households. In attempts to convert these users into their own separate accounts, these users may be more tempted to step away from the platform for good in favor of platforms that do not quite literally restrict streaming access to one physical location.

This isn’t to say that Netflix is the only streaming platform that is in favor of anti-password sharing policies. HBO Max’s help center even states that “account email and password should not be shared with anyone outside your household.” HBO Max has not pursued an active crackdown, however, and has instead implemented built-in features like limiting the number of simultaneous streams. Although these policies represent corporate desire to maximize profits, they are not nearly as unreasonable as Netflix’s proposed system of limiting streaming usage on vacation and excluding family members just because they may not all live within one exact location. Streaming services should look to adopt policies similar to HBO’s instead of fixating on password sharing as a supposed reason for loss in profits.

Netflix has indeed done so by revealing a new ad-supported subscription plan, in collaboration with Microsoft, at $6.99 per month in the fall of last year. Compared to the typical tiers of $9.99 to $19.99 a month, this policy, in theory, should increase audience reach, but with already hostile public views towards Netflix’s business decisions, these policies cracking down on password sharing may cause these beneficial decisions to be overlooked.

As a streaming service known for its accessibility, Netflix stands to lose more than they may gain from policies that are viewed distastefully in an era where convenience matters at an all time high.