Over the last decade, Netflix’s business boomed globally as it reaped its first-mover advantage in the streaming market. But now, with the rise of other streaming platforms, Netflix’s growth has stalled.
As the company considers new strategies to shore up its business, consumers are also watching Netflix’s moves in order to make their own decisions on whether to continue subscribing to the platform.
The Sammamish Independent interviewed several current and past customers of Netflix who live locally. We found many customers are growing ambivalent about Netflix, actively sharing their passwords with family and friends, and watching content on other platforms. Some are thinking about cancelling Netflix altogether if the company decides to add advertisements or start cracking down on password sharing.
On April 19, Netflix reported its first quarterly subscriber loss in more than a decade, dropping 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of 2022. Netflix predicted deeper trouble ahead, saying they expect to lose two million more subscribers in the current quarter. Netflix’s stock price plummeted more than 35% the day after its earnings release, and is now down more 48% as of June 15.
During the earnings call, co-CEO Reed Hastings said his company is exploring a lower-priced subscription with ads. Netflix also estimates that besides its approximately 222 million paying subscribers, an additional 130 million homes are using their service through password-sharing. The company is looking for ways to charge those customers.
However, rash changes by Netflix could risk a subscriber exodus. Barrett Thompson, 43, is a current Netflix customer who lives in Sammamish. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson subscribed only to Netflix and no other streaming service. But his usage of Netflix has declined since the start of the pandemic.
“Netflix just doesn’t seem as interesting as it once did,” Thompson said, citing the existence of other services such as Disney+.
He now splits his viewing time with Disney+, Hulu, and Peacock TV. Once loyal to Netflix, Thompson now believes the service has fallen bland when compared to the content available on other platforms.
Thompson admits to sharing his password with his close friends and relatives. He did not seem too nervous about Netflix trying to stop password sharing or diluting the service with advertisements.
“I could just move to another platform like Hulu or Disney+,” he said, “I would be fine leaving Netflix.”
Tori Williford, 39, also shares her Netflix password with close friends. She believes that Netflix’s shows continue to be just as impressive as they seemed when she first started subscribing in 2009. But if Netflix starts cracking down on passwords and adding advertisements, Williford said that may sway her to cancel her subscription.
“I am already using other streaming platforms that I can just switch to if Netflix changes anything such as adding advertisements and such,” Williford said.
Currently Williford has one primary complaint about Netflix — it does not have enough shows for her children.
If she had to choose a different platform, Williford would most likely go with Disney+ due to its broader variety of shows, and especially children’s programming.
“I think Netflix is a much more adult-focused service, because when I go on Disney+, I can find TV shows for all ages and from different genres as well, such as National Geographic or Marvel,” Williford said.
Damel Abbas, 20, has already canceled Netflix and now subscribes exclusively to Disney+. She stopped using Netflix during the pandemic when Disney+ added high-quality content from its many franchises.
Abbas mainly left Netflix not because it lacked content, but due to Disney+ having the shows that she was more interested in watching. She wanted to see WandaVision by Marvel Studios, which brought her favorite superheroes onto the small screen. She then stayed for Black Widow, Loki, and now Moon Knight.
“I just prefer Disney+ because I feel it’s more interesting to me and my interests than Netflix ever was,” Abbas said. “There is nothing wrong with Netflix specifically but the shows that Disney has access to are just that much more interesting to me.”
These perspectives show that Netflix has a tight rope to walk as it tries to balance compelling content to keep its viewers with the need to add more revenue streams through ads and password sharing fees. A misstep could mean even more subscriber losses in the future.