Netflix has long been threatening a crackdown on account sharing. Something that has become a feature, rather than a bug, and that drives eyeballs and maintains subscriptions was in the firing line for removal. How many of us don’t regularly watch Netflix, but keep our subscription because our white-haired, elderly mother still uses our subscription to watch The Crown?
They had trialled a solution in certain regions elsewhere in the world, including South America. It looked like it was coming to the rest of the world. A page went up on the official help centre online that appeared to describe how it would work.
The enforcement would work by reportedly requiring subscribers to verify their home devices every month, and devices needing to be logged on via their home address to do so. Any devices that were not verified in this way would be blocked from the account.
Immediately, people took to the internet to point out the massively obvious flaws in this plan. Say you pay, quite legitimately, for a four-screen plan. One of these screens is a device you use as you frequently travel for work for a living? Soldiers based overseas? Engineers, construction crews, oil rig workers, international business people?
How about students, living away from the family home for months on end?
Or second home owners? People with a screen on their boats? In a caravan or mobile home? Could a Netflix enabled Smart TV reasonably be put in a car and transported back to the main address very month, connected up, verified, and then taken back to the place where it is used?
It doesn’t take long to point out some fairly massive flaws in this plan and approach. It bears all the hallmarks of not having been fully thought through.
Netflix has now removed the page and an excuse has been made. Netflix says that the update is not applicable in the U.S. or some other western countries as yet:
“For a brief time yesterday, a help center article containing information that is only applicable to Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, went live in other countries. We have since updated it.”
Ahhh, the old “published in error” excuse? Anyone here who works for any kind of organisation knows how many levels of sign off there are before anything is published online, particularly anything that potentially impacts the legal terms and conditions. Pull the other one Netflix. You were pushing this policy, you messed up as it was idiotic and impractical, climbed down and blamed a low-level web publishing functionary for a mistake. We see you.
Netflix made an announcement last month confirming that the password sharing crackdown will be rolled out around the end of Q1 2023, which is just a month away. You even told everyone you were going to do it!
What happened here feels like Netflix realised the methodology would impact and annoy their entire customer base, from new entrants such as students up to high net-worth individuals with multiple homes, and decided they need to go back to the drawing board.
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