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Netflix's password sharing crackdown hurts consumers and the future of streaming

ASU students explore the impacts of Netflix's policy changes on student subscribership


Illustration of a Netflix user avoiding the password crackdown.

Netflix’s recent enforcement of its password sharing rules, along with its earlier price increases, are driving users away and fostering some resentment to what was once the face of streaming. 

The streaming industry has continuously evolved since its creation, with Netflix alone reporting more than 77 million subscribers. With recent changes to the platform, the biggest streaming service around, the future of streaming for consumers is becoming muddier. 

"I’ve had a Netflix account for three years now," Isaac Hammon, a junior studying film, said. "I do use it regularly, or did up until a couple weeks ago."

Though Netflix had been teasing a crackdown on password sharing in the U.S. since May, and working on it since as early as March 2022, it has only recently come into effect over the last month. Before, users could share accounts across any length — from households to countries.

Now, Netflix users must be within the same household to share an account, and sometimes this isn’t even true. 

Rajvir Singh, a sophomore studying film, said that members of his family were both using an account in the same house, and it still didn’t let both of them watch simultaneously.

A recent price hike from the site in October was another decision that users of the site are finding confusing and exploitative.

"My aunt already had a subscription, but she just canceled the subscription last week because they increased their prices again," Singh said.

Price increases are nothing new for online services, but this, paired with the crackdown, has led to resentment brewing in Netflix's user base.

"It was probably my go-to streaming service up until a few months ago," Hammon said. "I actually canceled my Netflix a couple weeks ago. I kind of canceled it in solidarity with a lot of people who lost access to it through the password lockdown, but then also the price hike too."

Despite these reactions from consumers, Netflix's numbers went up in their third financial quarter since the announcement of these changes. This could change significantly with the policies now in effect, but it's unclear if Netflix will face any consequences, monetary or otherwise. 

"If there was going to be any monetary backlash, it would have happened in the moment," Hammon said. "By next year, everyone's just going to be used to whatever the price that Netflix is, and so I don't think they're going to experience any social backlash either."

Singh said that though he hopes Netflix loses money from these decisions, he's unsure if it actually will.

There could be bigger consequences for consumers than just higher difficulty of access and a price increase. Netflix has been the face of streaming platforms, consistently leading the field throughout the years. Social media sites and any constantly updating user-based companies are notorious for quickly following in each other’s footsteps. 

"If the flagship is doing it, everyone else is doing it. Other streaming services will definitely take part in this," Singh said. 

Hammon had a similar sentiment and said that companies will follow the profits, if they're there. 

"My biggest concern is places like Disney Plus, HBO (and) Hulu are going to copy its model," he said. 

Catie Green, a sophomore studying nursing, said that other companies have likely seen the pushback and won’t enforce similar restrictions due to fear of their own reputations being harmed. 

For college students, the effects could be increased, since many of them rely on family accounts or the accounts of other people not living with them. With this change, Netflix users can only share accounts with someone living outside of the household for an additional price of $7.99/month. 

"It's really going to harm their reputation, because a lot of the people that watch Netflix are college students," Green said. "When they're cutting down on us, especially out-of-state students being able to use it, they'll just switch to (other services)."

Singh said that he doesn’t think most college students will care about the crackdown, and the only thing that would dip use of Netflix on campuses would be a genuine financial barrier. 

"It will not be a major shift. I don’t think it’ll be harmful to students," Singh said.

However, Singh hopes that student pushback could drive a change in the Netflix policy.

In all likelihood, nothing less than a complete tank in users will deter this new initiative from the tech giant.

"Most people would rather have stuff to watch when they come home than a lot of other comforts of life," Hammon said. "Some people are going to rationalize putting things like coffee or other comforts out of their day-to-day rather than giving up streaming. That’s why I feel like it’s exploitative."

Edited by River Graziano, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.

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