For the first time in ten years, Netflix lost more subscribers than it added last quarter. Now the company is scrambling to right the ship, which means enforcing policies that might make the service worse. And so it’s only natural to ask: Is now the time to cancel Netflix?
Netflix reported its quarterly earnings on April 19th, and it wasn’t news. For the first time in ten years, the company lost 200,000 subscribers. Specifically, when you subtract the total number of subscribers lost from the number of subscribers added in the same period, it nets out to -200,000. It hasn’t reported a net loss in ten years.
The company gave a lot of explanations for why it lost more subscribers than it added, and they are varied. For one, the current situation in Ukraine and Russia led to Netflix losing all of its subscribers in Russia, to the tune of 700,000 members. If that hadn’t happened, it’s possible Netflix would have reported a new positive subscriber base instead.
But that’s not the whole story; after all, Netflix previously suggested it would add 2.5 million customers in the same period. Even setting aside the situation with Russia, it would have missed that projection. That’s where the other explanations come in, and they’re worth paying attention to. Netflix has more healthy competition than ever from Disney, Paramount, HBO, and more.
But another factor Netflix brought up is password sharing. Currently, Netflix boasts 222 million households are paying for its service. But another 100 million households use the service without paying for it—they share a password with someone who does pay. That’s right, nearly a third of Netflix’s “customers” don’t pay to use the service. That’s not helping the situation.
While Netflix blames many mitigating circumstances for its current fortunes, the truth is people are choosing to leave Netflix of their own volition. And there are plenty of good reasons for that choice. Netflix isn’t the service it used to be, nor is it the only game in town anymore. Whereas it once enjoyed a “default only choice” position, that isn’t the case anymore.
Think about Netflix five to ten years ago versus what it looks like now. Five to ten years ago, it hosted all your favorite shows you loved during their original runs like Justice League (the cartoon, not the movie), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Doctor Who, How I Met Your Mother, Better Off Ted, and more. One by one, many of those shows have left Netflix. Often to join a parent’s company streaming service, like The Office heading to Peacock, or just to disappear altogether like That ’70s Show.
Even Netflix Originals aren’t immune, with its entire Marvel roster of shows now on Disney+. But to make matters worse, most Netflix Originals either aren’t very good or entirely owned by Netflix. Just look at the list of canceled Netflix Originals, and you’ll see dozens of entries that didn’t make it past season one. For every Stranger Things success, there are at least twice the failures. And most of the “good ones” aren’t wholly owned by Netflix. In the long run, Netflix could lose the series—just like those Marvel shows.
But even as the quality (if not the quantity) of Netflix offerings went down over the years, the price has gone up multiple times. The standard plan was $7.99 a month in 2010 and now costs $15.49 a month. That’s nearly double the original price. After raising prices on that plan, Netflix debuted a “basic plan” at $7.99 a month with fewer features, and now it costs $9.99 a month. And the top tier “Premium” plan went from $11.99 a month to $19.99 a month. All those price hikes undoubtedly drove customers away. And you can expect more to come.
All of this means Netflix has to do … well … SOMETHING to turn things around. And to start, it almost looks like it’s gone with the “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks” method. For as long as Netflix has been a streaming service, it has been a commercial-free affair. But now it’s finally openly entertaining an ad-supported tier that presumable will come in at a lower price.
But we don’t know what that tier will cost, nor do we know what features it will enjoy. It could function like the basic tier, allowing for just one stream at a time with just 480p resolution. Or, in a more likely scenario, you could get two streams and 1080p as found in the Standard plan. But whatever price it does launch with, you can be sure it won’t stay there. Sooner or later, that price will go up too.
And if you pay for Netflix and share your password with a friend or family member living in another home (and let’s be honest, if you pay for Netflix, you probably password share), you’ll end up paying more for the service. Netflix already started testing charging extra for password sharing privileges, and in its most recent earnings call, the company promised to speed up the test and start rolling it to more countries (including the U.S.) within the year.
The rush of shows leaving the service isn’t slowing down either, as evidenced by the sites that track Netflix’s offerings. And in response to its earning calls, Netflix said it would “pull back” on its content spending, which presumably could include both Netflix Originals and non-originals. The quality isn’t going to get better; it will get worse.
Already Netflix cuts corners where it can, and you could see that with one of its biggest hits of the year: Squid Games. The movie is another example of “Netflix Series” that’s actually an “exclusive” and not made by Netflix. The Korean show naturally required dubbing to English, and the final product led to complaints about accuracy and nuance, not to mention the bad acting. In other cases, the dub doesn’t match the English subtitles.
Netflix is only going to get more expensive, and there’s little hope that the quality of its content is going to improve anytime soon. So should you cancel? You’re probably expecting me to waffle here and give an answer to the tune of “it depends.” But in this case, the answer is “you probably should.”
If you love the content you get on Netflix and don’t find the price unreasonable, and nothing in this article swayed you on that fact, then go ahead and continue your subscription. But for the vast majority of subscribers, you should get out now. Finish whatever series you’re in the middle of that you absolutely need to see one more time and then cancel.
If your goal is to save money anyway, the best thing you can do is rotate your subscriptions. Only subscribe to the service you’re actively watching this month. And when that series finishes for the season, whether it’s Cobra Kai, The Mandalorian, or Young Justice, cancel the service until the next season premiers.
But wait a while before re-subscribing to Netflix. You may find you don’t miss it at all, And you’ll probably enjoy your $20 a month back.