As more devices are able to stream content from Netflix, he question of “What if the parents want to watch The King’s Speech, and Johnny wants to watch Spongebob” was bound to eventually rear its ugly head. According to an updated investor FAQ, Netflix may be getting ready to answer it.
The evolution toward individual memberships will take time, and we are still thinking about how to best do it. One option would be to allow an account to add additional concurrent streams (using the analogy of our DVD business, it would be like choosing a higher-priced plan that allows a subscriber to have more DVDs at home). Our $7.99-per-month plan is for one stream at a time, and later this year we expect to be able to offer consumers some account options to watch multiple simultaneous streams. Or it could be that there is a price point that would encourage multiple accounts in one household.
Currently members with multiple DVD rental plans can run concurrent streams (i.e., if you have the “3 DVDs out at-a-time plan,” you can stream three things a time, as well), but with Netflix looking to phase out the physical side of their business in the future, the faster they can push people away from that the better from their perspective. Of course, having individual accounts inside a family also allows individual tracking of viewing habits, useful information that can be traded or used to streamline internal operations in the future. Xbox Live offers up to four accounts for the price of two on their family plan, along with bonuses and premiums to encourage grouping, and given Netflix’s close relationship with the service, this provides them a good model to start from, and finally a safe haven for teenagers to hide their more… interesting selections from Mom and Dad’s prying eyes.