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Opinion: Netflix is cracking down on password sharing in Australia. Here’s what you should do.

Netflix password sharing
Netflix will start charging extra for password sharing in Australia to all those brothers-in-law that you apparently have. Here’s the smartest way to respond.

As is being widely reported today (I’ll give a hat tip to ITNews, because it’s where I saw it), Netflix Australia has commenced cracking down on people sharing Netflix passwords across multiple households.

What’s the new deal in a nutshell?

You’ve never technically been allowed to share passwords for your Netflix account under its terms and conditions that you almost certainly didn’t read when you were signing up.

It’s just that for the longest while, Netflix basically turned a blind eye to that kind of thing, while still retaining the right to enforce it. Which it’s doing, with the option to pay an additional fee to add one or two — depending on your plan — additional out-of-home family members to your account.

So that brother-in-law, offspring or granny who’s been freeloading on your account can do so no longer, unless you cough up $7.99 extra per month for their access. That’s a single device access, for what it’s worth, and it only applies if you’re on the Standard (Full HD) or Premium (4K) tiers, which already cost $16.99 or $22.99 per month. If you’re on the lower cost tiers, it’s apparently not going to be an option for you.

One interesting note here is that Netflix’s ad-supported tier, which has a slightly smaller library of content, costs $6.99 a month. Something to bear in mind.

Why is Netflix cracking down on password sharing?

Money.

I mean, it’s a business, and it will have had the metrics for basically forever that will more or less show who’s being a tad naughty about their password sharing over time.

If your account is consistently streaming content at two different addresses over a period of time, that’s a pretty likely case right there, while signing in once when you’re travelling is more open to interpretation. In that scenario, you’ll apparently have to sign in once per month to not be viewed as freeloading.

Update: With a hat tip to Sortius, it’s really messy for actual multi-house households. His situation (if I’m reading it correctly) is a split family, which may not apply (I’m not a lawyer and I’m not Netflix either) but right now Netflix’s terms of use for using the service outside the home state that:

Second home or frequent travel to the same location
If you have a second home or travel frequently to the same location, follow these steps:

From the main place you watch Netflix, connect to the internet and open the Netflix app on your mobile device(s) once a month. Then take the same steps when you arrive at your second location to continue watching Netflix without interruption.

It’s a guess on my part, but I suspect those lines may get culled from Netflix’s support pages quite quickly — or folks who use that for multi-point simultaneous viewing will be asked to cough up the extra $7.99 anyway if they frequently hop between houses.

So what to do?

Netflix is acting like a business. Treat it like one.

This is a business decision, plain and simple. Netflix will have crunched the numbers — apparently more than 100 million worldwide, which isn’t small change — worked out the likely cancellation rates and the number of folks who may just pay up and decided that it’s worth it to the company’s bottom line. Bear in mind that it’s a very different streaming market from the time when Netflix rather more openly allowed and even advocated for streaming sharing. Disney, Paramount, HBO, Foxtel and many more would rather happily see Netflix collapse in a heap, both so they could remove a competitor and pick over the bones.

So if they’re going to act like a business, treat them like one. Netflix has done a cost/benefit analysis on this move, so it’s a good time for you to do one as well. Is Netflix that costs you $7.99 a month more if you can legitimately share it to a second household worth it for you?

Everyone’s needs and income and situation are different, of course. For some, simply paying the extra $7.99/month so that grandma can continue watching Alice In Borderland won’t be a huge impost. Also, don’t judge Granny on her viewing choices, just let her get on with it and ignore her obsession with knitting with blood-red wool.

In other situations, sure, the cost will sting more than they can bear. So hit Netflix where it counts by cancelling your account, or, if there’s content on there that sits at the must-watch level, downgrade your plan to help cover the $7.99/month cost. Yes, you lose 4K that way, and it’s not ideal, but it’s not as though a HD version of a movie is going to tear your eyeballs out or anything like that.

Of course, the piracy elephant in the room will sound its little trumpet here. Do as you will (it doesn’t become legal just because others do it), but that’s likely to be a more risky and less convenient process, especially if you’ve got to feed the streaming needs of multiple households.

More sensibly — and this is what I do — manage your Netflix subscription and every other streaming subscription on a rolling basis. Outside sports — where Netflix doesn’t yet really have a play — there’s little on any streaming service that doesn’t stay there for some months.

As such, at any given time I’m likely to have just the one active paid streaming option in play. I’ll rinse that for everything on the service, then switch around and catch up with content on another service. Some months, there’s genuinely not enough that I desire to watch, so I skip out subscribing that month, and pocket the difference myself.

“But there’s not enough on just one streaming service!” I hear you cry.

I politely disagree, but I’m not fluffing up Netflix’s library size, or anyone else’s for that matter.

The reality is that the streaming market in Australia has moved with remarkable speed in the last decade, and with it there’s a tidal wave of genuinely-free-to-watch content available to you.

Dive into ABC iView, SBS on Demand, any of the commercial channel streamers (not my taste, but that’s fine too) or even the fully-ad-supported niche streaming services and you’ll find hundreds of hours of watchable material. You probably don’t have hundreds of hours of watching time to fill in any case.

Also, check in on Granny once she’s finished watching, just to make sure that she’s not getting any of her funny ideas again.

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