Netflix used AI to replace workers, announces new anti-password sharing plan

Originally published at: Netflix used AI to replace workers, announces new anti-password sharing plan | Boing Boing


FWIW, half of the young art students I meet consume anime and want to make anime–and that’s just here in the U.S.


I certainly didn’t expect the AI assault on artistic labor to arrive at this immediately.

It’s been the long-standing dream of the shareholder class for a long time now to be able to automate the work of creative workers. The moment a technology arrived that could do it in a viable manner (with the help of some uncompensated and uncredited human feedstock) they were quick out of the gate.


The whole password sharing thing has the potential to be a huge fuck-around-and-find-out moment when they realize just how many boomers are using accounts that their kids pay for. Because if there are three things I know about my in-laws…

  1. They have plenty of free time.
  2. They have a history of donating to, and voting for people I don’t like, but get elected anyway.
  3. They’ve been using my wife’s Netflix account for years.

I mean, do something that hits Millennials and someone writes a pithy article, do something that hits the AARP crowd and you are hosed.


The “productivity paradox” of the creative industries which were resistant to labour being replaced by capital. It is amazing that as with self driving cars the entire goal of shitting billions away is to make some people who are doing a good job, redundant. That’s it. No other “good” is planned.


On the one hand, to me anime is historically synonymous with cheap animation, from speedlines to digipaint to 3D models (or the entire show in 3D), So I’m not surprised. Obviously there are big-budget exceptions to that like Ghibli, but most stuff broadcast on TV is and always has been produced as cheaply as possible.

On the other hand, I’ve been angry about the underpaid animator issue for a while; it’s supposed to be cheap animation, not cheap animators.

On the gripping hand, the optimistic part of me would hope this led to fewer, better paid animators responsible for more of the output w/ more computer assistance. Naive, I know, and a little harsh to all the aspiring animators that simply never get the job much less work for peanuts.

All that said, actually looking at the sample background they have in the credits w/ the steps it went through… I can’t actually see what the software contributed. The “revised by hand” Final BG bears as much resemblance to the two CG steps as the initial layout does to the CG steps. It looks like it was completely repainted. They even put the moon back in the original location, though they left out the wolf howling at it. It looks more like the “AI” part of it is just a stunt, or at most they ran the original layout through img2img w/ various styles to get some inspiration for color palette but nothing else; the hand-drawn layout and revised-by-hand final BG actually look like the one was refined from the other.


Yeah, but they want that entitled thing called pay.


Next they’ll be wanting a credit listing, ungrateful wretches!


The password sharing limitations are big, sure, but I don’t see people talking much about their plan to put in advertisements- advertisements, in a PAID subscription. Are people really such pushovers that they’ll let their viewing experience be ruined by ad breaks while still forking over the cash?


This is going to blow up in their face. A lot of people pay for subscriptions that are not heavy watchers. I just looked at my viewing history, and I didn’t watch anything from August thru the end of December. My niece, who lives across the country with her mom, uses the account occasionally, since they can’t afford streaming or cable. Kind of an extended household. I can go weeks between uses.

So, I foresee this ‘must log in from home network every 30 days’ thing as an issue. There’s an excellent chance that I could get locked out of my account with these rules. The minute that inconveniences me in the slightest, I cancel my subscription.

I have the tier that allows up to 2 devices using the service simultaneously, which seems weird if you are expected to do it from the same house. By this logic, I should downgrade my plan at the very least.

I get that there are people really abusing password sharing, but the answer is not to DRM customers to death, the answer is to provide options that allow people to gift access for extended families, students, etc. Don’t market a service as ‘watch anywhere’ for years, then try to location-lock it. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense to add adds to the site while pruning away viewers.

The service is becoming less relevant to me, and I suspect many others. Discoverability on the service seems really broken, even for the stuff they are aggressively marketing and promoting. I get emails telling me about new shows, but when I go to watch them on a TV, they are often hard to find. They have a very weird search function that will suggest prompts of things that aren’t even on Netflix. The recommendations feed seems to be less useful than it used to be, and I’m finding it hard to invest time in new shows that are likely to be cancelled.

The streaming industry is going to have one hell of a shakeup. Until content providers realize that they can no longer rely on artificial scarcity in the age of the long tail, these silos are going to be less and less viable. The industry needs to change the way they exploit their catalogs – right now using content involves negotiating separate deals (and time windows) for everything. Really, the industry should have an agreement more like what Sound Exchange does for the music industry. Make content evergreen and make it available to all the services using standardized terms. Compete on customer experience rather than walled gardens. As a consumer, I’m strolling on a path that is just surrounded by walls; eventually I’m just going to say ‘screw it’ and head for the beach instead.


It looks like they already walked back the password sharing scheme? Or that the new rules were “errantly posted”? They’re handling this horribly.


Checks stock price…


They already added a tier with advertising. Do you mean something else?

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I will always appreciate this reference. My meaning is from the original Niven and Pournelle works and not later derivative memes.


I’m confused by what is perplexing about that? The only time I haven’t been bombarded with advertisements is when I paid MORE for services. Traditional cable has ads, the premium channels (like HBO) did not. Free broadcast TV certainly has ads and so does the same channel when I view it on my PAID cable interface. I think Hulu has always offered at ad tier level, but I pay more to not see the ads.

Or to put it another way. You don’t end up paying sports ball players multi-million dollar contracts because people are forking over hundreds of dollars to watch a single game. You get that revenue and profit through advertising and marketing. I’m surprised Netflix waited this long to put an ad tier level out.

From what I’ve seen in the last year with some of the AI generated “art” and digital “people” I think in another decade you’ll be able to order a custom video or movie directly from a service. Sure, it might take a bit to render, but imagine if I wanted to see a season 5 of Farscape or a DS9 meets Babylon 5 mashup. Obviously this will all start somewhere far more “adult” than that, but same general idea.

Of course, he has a long take on this latest bit of corporate fuckery and how automation and programming assumptions crash into the walls of reality.


Netflix says that its new policy allows members of the same “household” to share an account.



This! We’ve only maintained our Netflix account as long as we have because my in-laws use it. My spouse was absolutely giddy to be able to text their folks that Netflix will be going away at the end of the month. Their policy choices have set us free!