Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Netflix blocks concurrent streams for some users, then unblocks it, calls it all a big misunderstanding

Earlier today, some Netflix users began to discover the above error message when trying to view multiple streams on their Netflix account.  NetFlix's longstanding FAQ and TOS officially state that streaming users are limited to one stream only, and that DVD users are limited to one stream per-DVD, but these restrictions had rarely if ever been enforced.  On September 5th though, stopthecap reported that Netflix had suddenly and forcefully begun to enforce this policy.

Why would Netflix do this?  In theory, this would stop far-flung friends from illegally sharing one Netflix account, an abuse Netflix would surely love to curb.  However, many families with multiple viewers would be affected by such a change as well, left with no option but to pay more if they want their kids to be able to watch different shows at the same time.  In a strange twist, the move comes at the same time as the unpopular price hikes, giving those who were frustrated with Netflix yet more ammunition.

Perhaps that's why Netflix pulled the plug on this "glitch" so quickly.  According to a spokesman who spoke with stopthecap today, it was all a big misunderstanding, and no user should be limited to any less than two streams.  Arstechnica confirmed that the policy is you get the number of DVDs you have out plus one, and streaming only users simply have two.  As stopthecap notes though, the FAQ and other docmentation listing official limits hasn't changed, so it's hard to know if the current policies are temporary or just a response to the backlash.  For now though, stream away.

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