For years, there have been rumours circulating that the streaming giant, Netflix, would be installing a ban on password sharing. And they’ve finally done it!
Back in February of 2023, Netflix announced this update on account sharing:
The ban’s intention is to limit free-loaders who access the service without paying by logging into a paying customer’s account – done through password sharing. Netflix seems to have finally worked out a plan and method of enforcing this ban, so I guess, it’s the end of an era.
Or is it?
The new policy requires that only members of a ‘Netflix Household’ will be able to access the account – i.e., users accessing the service via the same internet connection are allowed to be on the one account. The main account can register two extra member sub-accounts for those who don’t live in the same household, but at an additional charge and only if main account holders have a Standard or Premium subscription. Determining who lives in the same household will be reviewed via a device’s ID, IP addresses and account activity.
The streaming service does claim that a user will be able to access the account via portable devices or TV whilst travelling or on holidays. However, there is little information on how Netflix are going to get around this and how long the account will stay logged in for whilst being accessed outside the household.
Whilst the above announcement is addressed to global Netflix customers, there is only mention of the policy being installed in the U.S., Latin-America, Canada, Spain and New Zealand so far. The global response, of course, was outrage at the streaming giant. But the immediate panic and despair about the situation doesn’t need to be adopted by us Aussie’s just yet. There has been no announcement from Netflix that they are ready to apply the ban to Australia, but be wary, it’s in the cards for the immediate future.
In fact, all has been pretty quiet since February from Netflix, though there have been many articles and reports from several news outlets on the details, what it means for customers and ways to get around the policy.
Netflix broke their silence on the 24th of May, to announce that the password sharing policy was being introduced to the United States officially:
When I first heard the news of Netflix’s plans to crackdown on password sharing, I thought for sure that the streaming giant would lose more money than it would make. By this I mean, there is a lot of controversy around Netflix’s recent creative decisions, in both what content they produce (most of it being mediocre) and that they cancel a lot of their shows after just one or two seasons, leaving viewers disappointed. Due to the limited variety and choice on Netflix compared with other streaming services, plus this new policy, I wouldn’t have thought there would be a lot of demand for the service going forward.
However, Forbes Magazine has reported that, despite Netflix self-predicting a drop in subscriptions, which there was, there was also a 102% increase in the creation of U.S. accounts just four days after the announcement on May 24th. Whilst users in the United Kingdom seem to be racing towards the opposite, with a 2939% surge in internet searches on ‘How to cancel a Netflix subscription’ since the announcement in February.
The difference in statistics may be because Netflix is insanely popular in the U.S., with the streaming service offering more variety and choice there, compared to its platforms in other countries. I know from personal use that the Netflix platform is by far the best and easiest platform to use, especially across devices and in areas of poor mobile phone reception and is ahead of its competition. However, Netflix wasn’t the first major streaming service to arrive on Australian shores – Stan was.
Stan is the second most popular streaming service in Australia today (after Netflix of course), but there are plenty of streaming services that can be accessed in Australia these days, such as Apple TV+, Paramount+, Disney+, Binge, Amazon Prime Video, Foxtel Now – the list goes on!
A contributor towards Netflix’s vast popularity is due to the production of original content, but, as mentioned above, the mediocrity and the early cancelling of shows may lead to the platform’s downfall. Stan, Amazon, Binge and Apple are now beginning to create their own content too, creating variety and helping to fill the gap created when networks, such as Paramount, pull their shows to stream on their own streaming platforms instead.
Whilst Netflix may have revolutionised the entertainment industry, the platform lacks features that other, newer platforms advertise; Netflix doesn’t have a seven-day free trial when users look into signing up for an account, Amazon Prime has the option to rent movies not immediately available on the platform, and using the popularity and reputation of content to do the marketing for services, such as the iconic and beloved content of Disney.
Will all this, combined with the new policy, finally see Netflix dethroned?
But what does all this mean for university students?
Unfortunately, with the current economic climate, rising interest rates and cost of living, university students will most likely find themselves missing out. As a student myself, I know that my fortnightly pay check would be better spent on other things such as rent, groceries and fuel for me to go about my day however, I am also someone who piggy backs off my friend’s Netflix account. I know a lot of people who do – whether it be a family member or friend’s account – due to the convenience and affordability. I also know of people who get a friend group together and they all contribute an amount for one group member whose name is on the account, and they all have the benefit of watching it – these people aren’t free-loaders, accessing the service comes at a cost, it’s just more affordable for their circumstances.
Every dedicated student knows what it’s like to hit a slump or to exhaust their brain by studying and multitasking. Being able to access Netflix is a blessing and simply being able to disconnect can do wonders for a stressed students mental health and allows time to build up their motivation to get back into their studies. Everyone needs a break sometimes.
This is why I think Netflix is going to lose a lot of people. No more freebies piggy-backing friends and family.
But what if a group-contribution situation happened in the same household, such as a share house? If everyone who wanted to access Netflix agreed and depending on the number of people, you’ve already created a Netflix Household and accessing Netflix shouldn’t be a problem and be more affordable to share the subscription.
This then raises the question; can this be done on-campus as well? Would Netflix consider everyone on campus, using the campus internet connection to be in one household? Considering the five profile limit an account can have, it may be feasible for groups of friends living on campus to come to an agreement to access the beloved streaming service.
Either way, this is something to discuss and consider, especially during the time Netflix is giving us without enforcing the new policy. Perhaps Netflix realises the potential financial losses with this plan and is purposely delaying implementing the policy in hopes of keeping usership in Australia?
I personally will not be getting my own Netflix account when the policy is applied to Australians. There are far too many other, cheaper options with more variety out there to choose from if I get bored. Or I could simply put on a good old DVD.