Blog Post

Netflix: We’re not cracking down on simultaneous streams

Netflix (s NFLX) is denying charges that it has started to crack down on users streaming to more than one device at any given time. Rumors of such a crackdown appeared online earlier this week: The blog Stop the Cap! posted a report that suggested the changes went into effect during the past weekend.

From the blog post:

Netflix streaming customers who happen to share their account with other family members are having a frustrated Labor Day weekend as Netflix completes implementation of strict new limits on the number of concurrent video streams available for viewing.

Netflix has in the past told its subscribers that the number of possible simultaneous streams depends on the subscription tier. Subscribers with a one DVD plan could access a single stream at any given time, subscribers of the two DVDs plan could access two streams, and so forth. However, these limits were never really enforced, and they made even less sense after the company separated its DVD and online subscriptions this summer.

Stop the Cap! has now reported that a number of users were getting error messages, telling them to “stop playing at least one movie” in order to access a new stream. However, this was a glitch and not a policy change, according to Netflix VP of Corporate Communications Steve Swasey, who told us via email:

No Netflix member is limited to less than two concurrent streams. A few Netflix members have heard differently from us, which is an error that we are correcting.

Netflix has been facing a substantial backlash over its decision to split up its subscription plans and in effect raise prices for some of its members by up to 60 percent. It’s understandable that the company would want to avoid any other action that could further enrage its customer base.

36 Responses to “Netflix: We’re not cracking down on simultaneous streams”

  1. That is such bullshit. I had netflix for awhile now and was able to stream on numerous devices all at the same time. I even had my sister using my account in NYC and we both were able to use it at the same time and watch whatever movie we wanted. All until today. I called up netflix and the rep denied the change was was like its a glitch and i was lucky to have that for whatever time it lasted. I am very furious and pissed off about it and quite frankly if its now fixed to the way it was, i would honestly be forced to delete my account and have no business with them.

  2. Ryan Adam Schutte

    Just happened to me and my brothers, we were watching the same show on seperate xboxes, in seperate locations, when the third one came into the party the second one dropped. Now I’m the odd man out, so to speak.

  3. We just got the “error” code for the first time yesterday, 9/21, we always do two streams at a time after our kids are asleep, hubby watches Star Trek and I watch anything else. I called customer support and was told “we guarantee you access to ONE stream at a time” (we’re on the one disc out at a time plan). When I explained we’ve been doing two at a time for the entire year (since we joined), but was not given a satisfactory explanation why this started up all of a sudden. Also, I asked if now that the two were splitting, then the disc portion would be irrelevant, but I was told “I don’t have an answer to that, we’re waiting for direction or news on that ourselves (customer reps).”

    All I can say is ARRRRRRGH. I was okay with the rate hike BUT NOT THIS!

  4. So, basically, sharing with a family member is considered wrong? Well, cable doesn’t make each family member subscribe to their own service, Netflix shouldn’t either. It should be one account per household/ISP address, but streaming to as many devices in that household as needed. Anyway, we canceled our dvd plan and we’re now at streaming only, but a lot of the shows still have issues and some do not stream properly. One show in particular has five episodes that show up sideways and I’ve contacted Netflix at least 8 times over the past year about it and nothing has been done. We’re gonna go with Amazon Prime and buy a TiVO. Netflix has jumped the shark.

    • They aren’t saying it’s wrong. They are making an assumption that the average household will not watch more than two TVs at any given time. This is quite reasonable for 8 bucks a month. They cannot reasonably restrict the number of streams based on an IP address for a couple of reasons. First, most connections use DHCP provided (dynamic) not static addresses. Internet providers charge more for static IP addresses, and Comcast, in fact does not provide them to residential customers any longer. Technically, they COULD require you to register your MAC address or ISN (for phone apps) and restrict it based on that. This would be tedious and annoying, however. How many customers know what a MAC address is? The only other reasonable method of restricting the usage is based on the number of clients using the account. How likely are you to be streaming a movie or TV show to more than two devices at the same time? Why would you want to?

      Many things in the modern consumer tech market are built around giving the consumer the most options and freedom possible, and removing limits. In this case, I believe it’s carried too far to want such a thing. Other than “because I want it”, there is no reason to need to be able to stream to many devices at once. Two TVs is the logical endpoint. If you are then leaving and simply must finish that Dexter episode on your smart phone, you’re going to turn off one of the TV streams anyway.

      • Ryan Adam Schutte

        They actually capture each device’s MAC when you register it, that’s what allows it to access netflix via your account. they used to show it on the device management page which has conveniently disappeared and been replaced with add and delete all options

  5. Simple solution: Restrict streaming to multiple IPs. This should stop the “share with a friend” dilemma and allow families with routers to stream to every console in the house.

    • John Wharem

      That’s not really a feasible solution given that they have the app for Iphone — and now Android devices. I for one would be pretty upset if my Android phone suddenly stopped streaming over its data connection because that was a different ISP from my household one. I do see the corporation’s need to impose some sort of limit on the streaming, but I think that two (minimum) simultaneous streams on any streaming account (and up to four on the more expensive accounts) is about as good a compromise as we’re going to get out of each other.

  6. Duane Davis

    In a posting on the official Netlfix Blog, Cindy Holland, VP of Content Acquisition said:

    “Another recent decision you’ll probably love is that we have limited one stream per household. Don’t like it? Go elsewhere.”

    Her full post:
    Cindy Holland said…
    The complaints that Netflix does not allow customers to contact us via email overlooks the existence of a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week toll-free number: 1-866-716-0414. Our customer care representatives are happy to assist with any issues you may have.

    The comments posted here illustrate a profound lack of understanding about our business model, and about business in general. The modern consumer is possessed of such entitlement that it’s sickening. The truth, ugly though it may sound to you, is that we the business are entitled to operate in whatever manner we choose.

    If you don’t like it, you’re entitled to take your business elsewhere. And that’s about the only entitlement you have.

    Another recent decision you’ll probably love is that we have limited one stream per household. Don’t like it? Go elsewhere.

    The thought that we cannot continue to be a healthy and profitable enterprise without a few bad-apple consumers is almost laughable.
    September 7, 2011 2:57 PM

    • This is usually not going to be the fault of Netflix, but more likely a bottleneck somewhere between you and your ISP, or the ISP is throttling your connection for some reason (which most of the cable companies have gotten busted doing at one time or another). The best place to start is with a set of speed tests to various timing sites to get an average download speed.

  7. If they started doing that I’d cancel my service right away.

    It’s common for my home to stream from an iPad and from a computer at the same time, specially at night.

  8. Has anyone experienced worse streaming on Netflix in the past few weeks? I just moved and had to switch to Comcast, so that could be the obvious culprit, but for the past few weeks, it’s rare for me to get through even a single TV episode without the stream stopping to buffer. Some times, streaming is totally unwatchable now.

    • Yes, I recently signed up and I’m about to cancel because the service always buffers! It worked much better during the trial month but now that I pay it’s shit. Even in the middle of the night during the week it needs to buffer. My internet connection works fine to other services so it’s netflix servers failing.

    • Worked great during trial month, now that I pay it buffers all the time. I’m going to cancel. It even buffers on a Tuesday at 2am so I know it’s not heavy server load. My internet works fine on all other sites like Hulu so it’s defiantly Netflix failing.

    • Steve A Jamma

      Worked great during trial month, now that I pay it buffers all the time. I’m going to cancel. It even buffers on a Tuesday at 2am so I know it’s not heavy server load. My internet works fine on all other sites like Hulu so it’s defiantly Netflix failing.

    • I’m on a low-tier Comcast connection (12 mb here) and almost never have to buffer in the middle of a movie or show. I did notice it a lot more when my connection was 6 mb. I suggest running some random speed tests on your connection and see where it averages over a few days.