Some users reported recently that their attempts to stream content to multiple devices simultaneously were met with an error message telling them they weren't allowed to do so. As it rolls out its controversial pricing plan changes, the company may be tightening the screws on viewers who abuse the system by piggybacking on somebody else's subscription. The change will also have an impact on families, who often share the same Netflix account across devices.
Netflix has denied the claims, saying that any users who experienced trouble trying to initiate concurrent streams were experiencing a bug, which they promised to fix. To test it out, we tried streaming an episode of "Mad Men" from our laptop while starting up an episode of "Parks and Recreation" from an iPad. Both shows streamed without a problem.
Technically, Netflix has long had these limitations in their rules, but they've never enforced them. Customers with either the one-disc-at-a-time or streaming-only plan are supposed to be limited to streaming from one device at a time. Pricier plans that include multiple discs also enable concurrent streams, starting with the two disc plan for $20 per month.
This being the case, Netflix wouldn't be totally out of line in enforcing its own rules. That said, now is probably not the best time to do it. The company has already outraged customers by increasing its rates and recently disappointed investors by losing a vital content licensing contract with Starz Entertainment.
In many households, multiple people use the same streaming service on multiple devices, especially among families. A plan that enables four simultaneous streams from the same account costs $30/per month. When combined with other streaming service plans, the pricing can begin to approach the cost of a cable subscription.
It appears that the the streaming limitations experienced by some users are not a widespread issue. It's possible that Netflix was experimenting with such a change, but quickly backed away, realizing that it probably can't afford even a few more irritated customers right now.