It’s no secret that Netflix wants to crack down on password sharing. The company has already kicked off a trial system in a handful of countries, and it seems the crackdown might actually be working. Now the streamer has revealed that this testing will be expanding to more countries, and has revealed how the whole process is supposed to work.
The crackdown takes the form of a new feature called “add extra member” in some countries or “add a home” in others. This test is already live in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru, and starting next month it’ll go live in Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras.
According to Netflix the idea is that each account is associated with a single home. If you want to start adding more homes, you’ll be prompted to pay an extra $3 a month. This is how Netflix is reacting to a user exodus, as Netflix just lost nearly 1 million subscribers.
Netflix being Netflix, there are limits based on what kind of plan you subscribe to. You can add one extra home on Basic, two on Standard and up to three more on Premium. All priced at $3 a home.
Netflix also confirmed that travel is involved, so users will continue to be able to stream when you’re not actually at home — provided you use a laptop or mobile device. Which is where the complications are likely to arise. Because how does Netflix differentiate between someone traveling away from home and genuine account sharing?
According to a support page for the Honduras test, Netflix determines your home base with various bits of information including “IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity.” If Netflix detects that you are watching on a TV away from home, it’ll prompt you to pay the extra $3 a month. If you don’t, or you're away from home for a genuine reason, you’ll only be able to watch Netflix there for two weeks.
After that period the TV’s access will be blocked until you add an extra home, or sign up for your own account. However, homes can be managed in the account settings, so if you move permanently you can change your homebase.
Netflix also confirms that a “home” is a single physical location, though that’s an overly simplistic explanation if you ask us. Families aren’t always that nuclear, even when you discount the figurative families like the main cast of the Fast and Furious movies.
Some kids split time between parents, and as we head into the fall other kids will be returning to college. They’re still part of their parents’ households, even if they’re not physically there all 52 weeks of the year.
Of course, we can already see one potential workaround to this whole scenario. The Honduras support page only places time limits on TV viewing outside your home. No such limit is mentioned for laptops and mobile devices, suggesting it may be possible to circumvent this daft endeavor by not using a TV. But we can’t say for sure until people start stress-testing the limits of what Netflix will allow.
But push people hard enough and they might just end up canceling their accounts entirely. It already happened in initial testing, for a multitude of reasons. It’s hard to imagine people were happy about the service trying to charge more for something it once encouraged.
How the mighty have fallen. Netflix used to be the alpha of the streaming pack, but it seems that increased competition has made the company overreact in the worst possible ways. Whether that’s developing a reputation for canceling shows with no warning, moving away from binge releases in the worst possible way or making unpopular decisions that will only prove to annoy people.
Charging for account sharing is definitely one of the latter decisions, because there’s no actual benefit to the subscriber. It may be restricted to a few Central and South American countries for the time being, but it certainly looks like Netflix is looking to expand further. The only question is when, and how many people are willing to kick up a fuss when it happens.