Everybody panic. Get your pitchforks and your hastily written protest posters ready. After a price hike to their streaming service and Starz walking away from the renegotiation table, Netflix is once again doing something that its customers find completely unacceptable: enforcing long-standing policies about the number of streams each customer is allowed.

Never in all my days have I heard of something so sinister. I'm shocked and appalled that a company would dare enforce its rules.

Netflix To Enforce One-Stream-Per-Customer

For the record, Netflix has long had a rule in their service agreement limiting customers to one stream at a time per account. That means you aren't allowed to stream two separate films or TV shows to two separate devices at the same time. Thing is... they just never bothered to enforce that rule. At worst, some customers engaging in this behavior received an occasional pop-up notification, but were still permitted to continue using multiple streams.

Netflix To Begin Enforcing One Stream Per Customer Rule netflix error

If you want to stream to more than one device, you can always upgrade your account. Customers on a streaming-only plan can simply pay another $7.99 to activate 2-device streaming capabilities. Or, if you're a DVD-and-streaming customer, you can go up to the 2-DVD plan for $19.98. Or the 3-DVD plan for $23.98, or the 4-DVD plan for $29.98.

And that's about it. The story could begin and end with one sentence: Netflix is going to start enforcing that rule they've been kind enough to look the other way on for years.

But that's not how the story is being spun. In fact, if you read the early media coverage (and fan reaction), this is a new rule, carved in stone by the heartless overlords at Netflix, who are incapable of showing customers anything but vicious greed.

Now, every one of those articles above knows that this one-stream-per-customer thing has always been a rule. They all mention it in the body of the article. I guess it's just not sensational enough of a headline to say "Old Rule Now Enforced." It's catchier--and more inflammatory--to say "OMG, Netflix has a new restriction to take more of your money!"

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Much Ado About Nothing

Many readers appear to be reacting quite negatively in the comment sections of those articles, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Why... because Netflix is charging them more? No... because Netflix is enforcing something that has been outlawed all along. The fact that users got away with multiple simultaneous streams doesn't mean it was officially permitted.

On the highway, I speed all the time, like a lot of drivers; but when I get pulled over and the officer writes me a ticket, I can't get anywhere by whining, "But I sped yesterday and you didn't ticket me... so now you're just being mean."

To use a more appropriate analogy: let's say you move into a new apartment, only to find that the cable service is still functioning. You watch a few months of free cable until one day the provider catches on and your signal is gone. Do you:

A. Tear your own shirt in a fit of righteous rage?

B. Whine about what the cable company took from you?

C. Count your blessings and realize you enjoyed some free benefits for a while?

Hopefully it's "C." If you answered A or B, then there's probably nothing I'm going to say in this entire article that's going to change your mind. You believe you are entitled to free things, and that's just not a rational stance. Streaming video bandwidth is insanely expensive, which a lot of consumers don't know. Expecting Netflix to offer multiple streams for the same price is like asking McDonald's to sell you 10 cheeseburgers for the price of one. It's unreasonable.

Look, I took plenty of heat the last time I stuck up for Netflix when the price hike was first announced--and I still say the service is a fair value even at the new higher price--and I'm not exactly itching to be the whipping boy again on this issue. But the fact of the matter is this: customers have zero right to be mad about Netflix enforcing this rule. Zero. This is not another price hike... not even close.

That won't stop many from getting mad, but it won't be a defensible anger.

  • https://mobile.twitter.com/USAGeorge USAGeorge

    It may well be in the contract but Netflix's current customer base has been built on what it was,not what it's rights are..The streaming selection is old and limited in selections even when at it's best...They will lose customers,and some other provider will fill the nitch where mom and dad can watch a movie while the kiddies are occupied watching a netflix cartoon...

  • Joel Echagarrua

    as long as netflix includes English and Spanish Audio I will pay

  • Guest

    I'm okay with the whole idea as long as I'm going to be paying for foreign films that include English Audio with along with bloody subtitles.

  • Stall TheMachine

    why not just limit it to 1 connecting IP address then all devices behind your broadband connection can stream and netflix wont have to concern themselves with people sharing login information, DUH?!?
    One worse than this is having to pay Microsoft for the privlige to stream a service your already paying for to an Xbox device that you have purchased.
    Dont worry these CEO's will never understand it or the fact that their the ones causing the need for piracy.

    • Garret Aran

      Because most homes' real world IP addresses change at given intervals from their ISPs. Only business lines have static IP addresses.

  • apexadam

    I agree. Many folks I know go bloody mad having to pay $15/m for streaming services but willingly shell out $100s for phone and or subscription TV. Get over it. –adam

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000509595815 Randy Smyth

    multistreaming was handy for people with more then 1 pc in the house. for example hear we got a roku for the kids to watch stuff and a few laptops and sometimes we where all watching diffrent things. all this means for me is ill go back to the old way of getting my shows pirate.

  • Lyman DeLiguori

    It's called GREED. Indeed, even their CEO admitted to blowing the way they handled the entire price hike issue.

  • melvin olson

    I've been a netflix customer for as long as I can remember it in business. I feel bad for some of us disabled, bedridden folks might suffer from this new money grab, I figure if they feel the need then they might raise the price by half.

    Lots of new streaming media out there. Just found Amazon offering prime members free movies, etc., only 79 a year which also gives you free 2 day shipping for free, one day for 3 dollars.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=534801737 Ryan Everett Cheesman

    I think if you have a plan where you get 2 DVD's at a time then you should have 2 streams at a time. It's nice to have the kids watch one stream while the parents watch another. Having to pay more is lame. If you make a rule, you have to enforce it. Otherwise, you will never be able to enforce it again.

  • Christophor TheAuthor Rick

    Wahahahah! The death spiral quickens! Did they not JUST announce 50 devices per account? Did they not JUST announce multiple profiles for a single acount so each family member could have their own favorites etc? NOW they're going to enforce one stream per account?

    *Laughs while watching another million people cancel Netflix subscriptions* NutFlux!

    • Christophor TheAuthor Rick

      Hahaha! I just heard a Netflix commercial on the radio...maybe they should start pulling in the reins on that type of stuff.

  • John Alcantar

    I think this is a bad move on Netflix, raising the price a little would be good, but not doubling it just to stream two movies at once.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=263357780050 Whiskey Tango

      Why would anyone want to stream two shows at once? Kids watching Dora downstairs, adults watching Mad Men upstairs.

    • Joshua Santana

      Why would anyone want to stream two movies at once?

    • Ernesto Rangel

      old news John...

    • John Alcantar

      they are reinforcing it, if i may add.

    • Ernesto Rangel

      I know I have netflix =/

    • John Alcantar

      yeah, @[647695178:2048:Terrance L Taylor] won't be able to watch Netflix now..

    • John Alcantar

      exactly, roomate watching in the living room, and me wanting to watch a movie in my room.

  • daniel

    Streaming bandwidth is NOT expensive. That's why Netflix is trying to move customers away from the DVD model with the new pricing scheme.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000397592843 Justin Downey

    I'm such a big fan of netflix. Let the enforce all their terms of service. They'll still be better than Blockbuster!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=603072075 Kevin Tumlinson

    I won't matter much longer anyway. Losing Starz, raising prices, cutting down on multiple streaming... I'm pretty sure these are all death knells for Netflix. Rattling inhales that signal a rapid decline on the horizon.

    After all, Netflix was set up from the beginning to be a streaming video service, but if it's unaffordable, can't stream current or in-demand content, and can only be viewed by one household user at a time, is it really a go-to choice for video streaming?

    • Lyman DeLiguori

      Kevin, well put. During the reign of Blockbuster they began to become haughty and arrogant. Ultimately it blew up in their face and, well, Bankruptcy. The core issue was that they (and now apparently Netflix) thought they were immune from the public telling them to pound sand, which is what ultimately transpired. I believe their days are numbered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=534520561 Mike Zolnowski

    Lets all watch as the stock falls and falls and falls. Its time to sell now!