Netflix’s password crackdown is solving a problem that doesn’t exist
Easy there, American password-sharers: Netflix isn’t cracking down on you just yet. But that’s not from lack of trying. And changes are looming on the horizon.
The streaming giant has been threatening to put an end to password sharing for a while, but it wasn’t until last week when those threatss got serious.
Those changes, currently on trial in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru, require users to log into their account from their “household” once every 31 days. If you try to sign in from a location other than your household, Netflix may block your account unless you pay more per month to add more users. They were posted on the U.S. help page last week, but Netflix spokespeople later said those changes were posted inadvertently and were not in effect in the U.S.
Even with the explanation about , this policy went over poorly with most Netflix users. At one point, Netflix embraced password-sharing and even called it a form of love, one of the new steps to sharing a life with someone. Now, this policy change would prohibit many people from easily accessing their Netflix accounts, whether they share those accounts with other people or not. What about people who travel a lot for work? Long-distance relationships? College students? What if you move? Or, as one Twitter user pointed out, what if you’re a Netflix employee who has to travel for work?
What’s funniest about this is many Netflix employees or creators have to travel a lot for work, and probably won’t be able to get to their home wifi every 31 days https://t.co/CHuwSWVGrd
— Kieran Yap (@KaptinYap) February 1, 2023
Netflix is creating a problem that never needed to be solved, but losing 200,000 subscribers in one quarter will do that to you, I guess. Netflix came out of its bumpy 2022 with 7.7M added subscribers for a total audience of 231M paid subscribers, but if every one of those subscribers is sharing with at least one user, the company is leaving money on the table. But Netflix never seemed to care before, and neither did other streamers who have similar password-sharing guidelines. And that’s because Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max and others know that if they implement policies like these, a sizable chunk of subscribers will leave for good.
The new password crackdown also raised security concerns among users, since Netflix would be using IP addresses to know when and where a user is logging into each account. If you share an account, you already get emails when a new login occurs, but the only details the account owner receives are the type of device (such as phone or web browser) and rough location. Netflix tracking IP addresses feels a bit too far for some users, even though the streaming site probably has that data on a server somewhere.
It’s unclear when these changes may be coming to the United States, but it doesn’t bode well for the future of the site, or the future of streaming, if they implement them. Streaming is increasingly becoming an untenable business model. Every day brings news of a new merger or show cancellation or new streaming service. The market’s too crowded to allow anything to become distinct anymore—and that includes Netflix. Cracking down on passwords won’t buy the company any goodwill, but it will make them stand out for all the wrong reasons.