Netflix has embraced the fact that something like 10 million people watch Netflix without paying for it by sharing passwords by rolling out new individual profiles on accounts. Previously, the streaming service had kind-of-sort-of allowed subscribers' friends to freeload, with the following in its terms of service:
YOU MAY INSTANTLY WATCH ON UP TO SIX UNIQUE AUTHORIZED NETFLIX READY DEVICES. YOU WILL BE ALLOWED TO INSTANTLY WATCH SIMULTANEOUSLY ON TWO SUCH DEVICES AT ANY GIVEN TIME
Buried deep down in an agreement no one reads, that verbiage opens a loophole for one paying person to give five other people (or at least other "unique authorized Netflix ready devices") access to their account — even though it's illegal in some states. Now, Netflix has made that easier than ever by letting up to five Netflix to set up their own profiles on a single account — the idea being that recommendation algorithms and viewing histories won't get screwy because of all these people's distinct viewing habits. Now that three-hour Woody Allen documentary you watched won't interfere with the recommendations Netflix gives to to your co-worker's dad, who foots the bill.
The target audience of the profiles are families who have parents who watch serious, mature stuff and kids who watch cartoons:
I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences, where you sat down to find something great to watch on Netflix, but it looks like your spouse has been binging on those teenage supernatural dramas you can’t stand, or your kids have filled your viewing history with animated sheep.
But, really, any group of people splitting the $7.99 per month fee will benefit from this new system. Besides the obvious benefit to families, it's a bit odd that Netflix wouldn't move away from password sharing. But, it might be a "counterintuitively savvy promotional tool for getting potential customers hooked on a product they wouldn’t otherwise sample," argues Variety's Andrew Wallenstein.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.