Netflix to begin password sharing crackdown in Canada this week

By Michelle Mackey

This is the week that many Canadians could find themselves locked out of a shared Netflix account.

Earlier this month, the streaming giant sent notices to Canadian users outlining how accounts can be accessed by those they don’t live with as it begins cracking down on password sharing.

Under the new rules, users will need to add a “primary location” to their account by Feb. 21. This allows Netflix to recognize anyone who accesses the account outside the home base.

Premium and standard account holders can “buy an extra member slot” for $7.99 per month each. For that price, premium high-definition 4K subscribers – who already pay $20.99 per month – can add up to two members who don’t live in their household.

Standard subscribers, who pay $16.49 per month, can add one additional member for the same additional monthly fee.

Basic plans, which cost $9.99, and ad-supported plans, which cost $5.99, will not be able to add more members.

For viewers who frequently travel or own a second home, Netflix says the account holder will have to sign in on their Netflix mobile app at least once a month while connected to the WiFi at their primary location.

Subscribers who move homes within Canada may be required to update their primary location to avoid being locked out of Netflix, according to the company’s help page.

“Netflix hope is of course that this will raise a lot of extra money, but my concern is that the sector that’s most likely to be doing this account sharing is also the one that is most price conscious,” Richard Lachman, Associate Professor, RTA School of Media at Toronto Metropolitan University tells CityNews.

In response, an online neighbourhood pulse poll by Nextdoor Canada which surveyed more than 3,000 Ontario residents found almost six in 10 respondents said they would be cancelling their subscription.

“One of the reasons why we cancelled back in January was (the shared account crackdown), advertising as well, and also the rising fees,” one Toronto resident told CityNews. “The ability not to be able to share amongst family members based on various devices is problematic for us.”

“My brother has always had a Netflix account – and there’s three of us, my siblings and my parents,” said another Torontonian. “I think we’ll just have to get our own, but I haven’t been locked out yet!”

Netflix recently described the password sharing phenomenon as out of control, estimating that more than 100 million households share accounts, which it says affects its ability to invest in new TV and films.

The streaming giant has already received backlash after rolling out the new policy in Latin America, Spain, Portugal and New Zealand with some viewers calling it unfair since other streaming services still allow password sharing.

Lachman says it may only be a matter of time before those other services outlaw the practice as well.

“This tends to be the way, when one site finds some new policy then the others kind of roll out because it becomes acceptable.”

Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters admitted in a conference call with investors in January that the move was going to be an unpopular one.

“It’s worth noting that this will not be a universally popular move, so there will current members that are unhappy with this move. We’ll see a bit of a cancel reaction to that,” he said.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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