Netflix is testing the loyalty of younger generations - and it won’t win

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At this point, we’ve all heard about Netflix’s unreasonable and honestly ill-thought-out password-sharing rules, and we’re all upset about it. Personally, I will be discontinuing my use of the streaming service once the rules are put into place, as I share my account with family who lives abroad and I don’t really want to deal with what I consider to be an anti-consumer policy.

The real shame of the whole ordeal is the fact that Netflix was supposed to be the platform that had something for everyone: romcom enjoyers, die-hard action fans, and even kids and anime lovers. Sure, a lot of their ‘Netflix originals’ haven’t been great, but the fact that there is so much content on the platform meant that whatever mood you were in, you could sit down and have a good time. But the new ‘check-in’ system they’ve devised to curb password sharing isolates a pretty key demographic: young people. 

But more often than not, I was going back and forth between school and home irregularly. This protocol doesn’t take into account people who travel often, split time between staying at home and work, and especially students. I left home in Zambia for university in the UK and traveled across the globe with an iPad and Netflix to act as my only form of entertainment for a very long time. If I watched a show I knew my parents would like, it was pretty easy to get them online and let them see it for themselves for long periods.

A lot of my flatmates were doing the same; going home for the holidays, dropping by to see loved ones on special occasions, and we haven’t even started on the constant moving of students due between flats or houseshares during their time at university - especially when you consider the people that do internships or international student exchange schemes.

Are you still watching? 

I know it sounds like I’m being dramatic, and yes I am aware that you can request a code from Netflix that will grant you seven days of access before you get locked out, or change your nominated household. But how often will Netflix allow you to make that change? Once a year, once a month? How long will they recognize that change? Netflix isn’t even sure of the rules they're laying down as they start rolling them out. 

The people in this demographic are younger millennials and zoomers, and we know that zoomers particularly have fleeting brand loyalty and often shop or subscribe based on values. If Netflix doubles down on its policy and it begins to not only inconvenience but isolate an increasingly poorer, struggling generation - think about wage stagnation for working millennials and the large zoomer student population - there’s a good chance they’ll lose subscribers who won’t come back.

If you look into it, young people use Netflix an awful lot. It’s not uncommon for gen-Z to have a low-intensity show playing in the background while they cook, read, or even sleep. We rewatch our favorite comfort shows over and over, or just binge-watch the latest reality TV drivel because it’s fun and doesn’t demand much brainpower to consume.

A whole lot of students watch Netflix instead of studying and, in my opinion, that’s a crucial part of the modern university experience. Plus, ‘watch parties’ got a lot of young people through the pandemic - something that these new rules might kill off for good.

See what's next

In the digital age, people may forgive and they may move on, but because everything is online, they’ll never forget. My own peers and colleagues are already gearing up to dump Netflix and if the company continues to make things up as they go along, more and more people will follow suit.

It seems like Netflix has this strange idea that the reason it’s losing money is that people share passwords, which I guess is just a hard pill to swallow. I don’t think that's entirely the case. I think - and I know I’m not alone here - that the reason it’s losing money is that they make too many low-effort original shows, and they cancel the shows people actually do like - the ones that cultivate a dedicated, if not massive, following. And of course, competition in the streaming industry has picked up hugely since Netflix’s glory days; services like Hulu and Disney Plus are now providing some serious rivalry.

I don’t think this is the collapse of the streaming giant by any means, but I do think it’ll stain Netflix in a way people aren’t likely to forget. It’s a move that’ll lose the fierce loyalty it had from viewers in the past, and create a lot of hassle for people who don’t have nice, anchored, ‘one household’ lives. Oh, and it’ll probably bring about the end of ‘Netflix and chill’.

Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison.

Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place.

Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).