Crackdown on Netflix passwords fuels increase in subscribers

Geralt of Rivia, played by Henry Cavill

Following Netflix's crackdown on password sharing this spring, a surge of people signed up for the service.

By the end of June, the company had more than 238 million subscribers, an increase of 5.9 million since March.

That exceeded expectations and came as a result of the company's efforts to jump-start growth after experiencing unusual subscriber losses in the spring.

It is also being hampered by the ongoing writer and actor strikes in the US.

Due to the walkout, which was the largest in the industry in six decades, Netflix announced that it would spend less on content this year than anticipated. Ted Sarandos, the company's CEO, stated that "we need to get this strike to a conclusion.".

He declared, "We did not intend for this strike to happen. He declared that the business was dedicated to coming to an "equitable" agreement that aided the industry's transition into the future.

We still have a lot of work to do, he added. ".

Since the pandemic, Netflix has struggled with a sharp slowdown in growth as competition intensifies, households deal with rising costs, and it reaches what analysts perceive to be saturation point in some of its largest markets.

It lost about 1 million accounts in the first half of last year.  Though it later more than made up those losses, the declines jolted the company and sent it scrambling to shore up its growth prospects.

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia
The latest season of the Witcher has been popular with Netflix viewers in July.

Customers were drawn in, according to Netflix, by new options that are less expensive than a typical subscription.

In May, the company launched its "paid sharing" program, which imposes a surcharge on users who wish to share their passwords with individuals outside of their immediate family.

In the UK, it asks a little less than half of the £10.99 cost of a standard subscription.

The programme is now present in more than 100 countries.

The company also launched a less expensive streaming plan with ads last year and cut prices in dozens of countries in February.

Netflix said few people had cancelled as a result of the password changes and it believed the programme would fuel similar subscriber gains in the months ahead.

It has estimated that more than 100 million households share passwords in breach of its official rules.

"While we're still in the early stages, we're seeing healthy conversion of borrower households," the company said in a quarterly update to investors.  "Now that we've launched paid sharing broadly we have increased confidence in our financial outlook. ".

Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, said the subscriber gains were robust and a "strong endorsement" of Netflix's strategy.

But he called the password crackdown a short-term measure, saying the company would need to fine-tune its pricing in the months ahead.

"The company is still in a far stronger position compared to rivals and remains the benchmark," he said, noting that Netflix's streaming plan with advertising is much cheaper than many current offerings from rivals.

Analysts said the company's big library and the scale of its international production may help it in the months ahead, as Hollywood wrestles with the impact of the strikes.

These have already disrupted production schedules for a number of films and series.

"Of everyone in the entertainment industry, Netflix appears to be the best positioned," said Brandon Katz, entertainment industry strategist at Parrot Analytics, which tracks streaming demand, noting that the company still leads its peers, despite strong competition.

Despite the subscriber gains, the $8.18bn (£6.32bn) in revenue Netflix reported disappointed investors, rising just 2.7 percent from last year.  Profits were $1.49bn.   .

Netflix said that it has limited its price hikes in recent months, leading to a slowdown in revenue growth that gains from its password crackdown and new advertising were not big enough to offset.   .

It said it expected that to change by the end of this year, as advertising revenue increases.

It has stopped offering its least expensive commercial-free plan in the US, UK and Canada in a bid to push price-conscious customers to the ad-funded version.

Membership of its ads plan "nearly doubled" from March - though from a "small base", the company said.

"Netflix needs to squeeze as much juice as it can from different avenues, given a recent lack of price increases could suggest that inflation is starting to bite Netflix's ability to crank up its subscription price, as households look to trim their spending," said Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"Initial progress seems positive, but we are realms away from knowing for sure if this venture is the cash cow it's been sold as. ".

Shares, which have surged 60 percent this year amid investor enthusiasm for the company's plans, dipped in after-hours trade.

Ms Lund-Yates said the company had delivered a "sturdy" performance and the fall reflected the high expectations for the company.

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