17 Netflix Controversies That Almost Ended The Service

Netflix is the go-to way to watch television and movies. It has taken over the pop-culture world.

Between their original series and original movies, anyone who doesn’t have a subscription is missing out on a lot of content and is most likely confused by a conversation or two throughout the week. It’s important to be in the loop when your coworker is talking about the newest season of Stranger Things.

While there are certainly other platforms, like Hulu and Amazon, Netflix seems to be the most popular choice.

The streaming service shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, although it’s definitely hit a few bumps along the way.

Every big company has its secrets and scandals, and Netflix is no different. Whether the original content stirred up controversy or the company found itself in some legal trouble, there are some issues that have made things a bit more complicated for the massive global provider.

Since its launch in 1998, Netflix has seen its fair share of issues. A lot of Netflix users aren’t aware of these past problems because they’re far too busy streaming the latest season of Jessica Jones. But at one point or another, these scandals have affected the service.

Here are the 17 Netflix Controversies That Almost Ended The Service.

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13 Reasons Why Hannah Baker Poster
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17 Original Series 13 Reasons Why Boycott

13 Reasons Why Hannah Baker Poster

One of the most controversial shows in the past few years is Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. The series received mixed reviews and was slammed for romanticizing mental illness and the taking of one's life.

Based on the book by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why is about a teenage girl who ends her own life, but leaves behind cassette tapes that tell thirteen reasons why she did it. The show includes flashbacks to when Hannah was still alive.

While the show attempted to raise awareness for mental health and death, a lot of people believe that the show glamorized it and glossed over issues like depression and post-traumatic stress.

The graphic manner in which they showed her taking her own life also triggered at-risk viewers and reinforced unhealthy ideas. Despite all of this controversy, though, the show was renewed for a second season.

16 Kevin Spacey Scandal

There have been a lot of assault scandals in the past year, but Kevin Spacey is one of the most shocking and memorable ones. The actor was involved with a few Netflix originals at the time.

House of Cards was one of the service’s most successful dramas. When the news surrounding Spacey broke, fans were left wondering what Netflix would do with the show.

People were calling for Netflix to end their relationship with the actor. Netflix agreed, so the next season will be the show’s last. Although the final season was already shot, they rewrote and reshot it so that Spacey was included as little as possible.

They also had planned to release a movie, Gore, which starred Spacey, up until the allegations came out. They decided not to move forward with the movie.

15 Fox Lawsuit

In 2016, 20th Century Fox sued Netflix for supposedly poaching their employees. Netflix defended themselves, saying that they fight for the right to hire great employees no matter where they work.

According to Fox, Netflix illegally hired two of its executives who were still under contact. They claimed that Netflix was warned that they were illegally tampering with their employees and were asked to stop.

The two industry leaders went to court over the dispute, as Fox claimed they suffered “irreparable harm.”

Fox isn’t the only company that Netflix has recruited employees from, however. They’ve hired multiple executives from a lot of major studios.

Netflix’s continued rise within the entertainment industry has certainly caused some tension among studios and networks. They have quickly become a major competitor in Hollywood.

14 Mo’Nique’s Boycott

Mo'Nique in Precious

Oscar-winning actress Mo’Nique once called for a boycott of the streaming service based on “gender bias and color bias.” She posted a video slamming Netflix on her Instagram.

She claimed that the service offered other comedians, such as Amy Schumer, a lot more money for their comedy specials.

Apparently Schumer negotiated for higher pay after learning that some male comedians were offered more, and Netflix complied. When Mo’Nique asked, however, she was denied more money, despite having an impressive résumé.

Netflix didn’t want to comment on the situation, but it stirred up a lot of attention from other comedians, like Wanda Sykes, who claimed that she was also underpaid.

It sparked rumors that black comedians aren’t valued by the streaming service. The negative controversy didn’t do Netflix any favors.

13 Cannes Controversy

Cannes 2017 logo

Netflix took two movies to the Cannes Film Festival. Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories were it’s first two movies to participate in the festival, and most likely are the last.

There was a lot of backlash when people heard that Netflix would be involved. After participating that year, it was announced that the movies that compete at Cannes must have a theatrical release in France. Supposedly, the festival is meant to celebrate theatrical movies, not films released on streaming services.

Netflix didn’t necessarily view the controversy as all bad, though. According to the Netflix founder, Reed Hastings, the conflict only brought the two movies even more publicity.

So inadvertently, the Cannes Festival helped promote Netflix while attempting to discredit them. As they always say, any publicity is good publicity.

12 Original Series The Crown's Equal Pay Dispute

The Crown TV show

One of Netflix’s original series came under fire when it was revealed that the leads didn’t make the same amount of money. The actress on The Crown was paid less than her male counterpart for the first two seasons.

The Crown is a political drama that follows Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the important historical events during the time. To find out that the queen herself makes less than her fictional husband made a lot of fans angry.

While Matt Smith, who plays Philip, is well-known for his role on Doctor Who, it didn’t seem right that he was paid more than Claire Foy who plays the queen, the character the entire show is based around.

It’s just another example of the wage gap in Hollywood that is often discussed. Since the equal pay dispute was revealed, the show has said that they will no longer pay anyone more than they pay the queen.

11 Removing Their Social Networking Feature

A lot of younger Netflix users aren’t aware that the streaming service once had its own version of social media. It was called “Netflix Friends.”

You could friend and unfriend people just like Facebook. For six years, Netflix Friends listed what your friends were watching and what they thought of it.

You could also write personalized reviews to send to friends and become a “fan” of someone to follow their ratings. It was sort of like Spotify, but rather than using it for music it was used to share what shows or movies you were viewing.

Netflix ended their social media abruptly in 2010 and it angered quite a few users to the point that the service had to apologize for their miscommunication. What’s done was done, however, and Netflix Friends never came back.

10 Price Rises

Netflix Stock Price

The biggest complaint among Netflix users has been the rise in price. In 2014, they raised the price from $7.99 a month to $9.99. Old customers were able to keep their original pricing up until 2016. Prices have continued to climb since then.

The standard service is now priced at $10.99 monthly, and premium is now $13.99. There is still a cheaper option for those that save money, but users can only stream on one screen at a time. That basic service is $7.99.

Netflix puts a lot of money into their original shows and movies. As the streaming service adds more original content and features, they raise the price. This has caused a few users to drop the service for cheaper streaming platforms like Amazon or Hulu.

9 Original Series Atypical Boycott

While Netflix has received a lot of praise for their original shows, some of them miss the mark. Others receive flat-out criticism, like their series Atypical.

The comedy centers on a teenager on the autism spectrum as he tries to navigate high school and relationships. While the show was attempting to shed light on the struggles of autism in a quirky, positive manner, it drew a lot of criticism due to it’s portrayal of the main character.

Some viewers said that it was offensive to kids on the spectrum. Supposedly, the show is full of stereotypes and perpetuates the stigma surrounding autism.

Other viewers didn’t like that the character’s autism was used as a punchline throughout the series. While the creators of Atypical may have had good intentions, a lot of viewers were disheartened by the execution.

8 Shrinking Library

While Netflix is pumping out original content faster than fans can keep up with, their library is actually shrinking. Their catalog of movies and television shows continues to grow smaller. They just aren’t as interested in licensing shows as they used to be.

While at one time, Netflix was used to exclusively stream Hollywood series and movies, they’ve become a major dealer of original content. When big movies and shows leave Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are quick to snatch them up, resulting in some Netflix users leaving the service.

Could Netflix eventually be all original programming? If so, in order to view Hollywood movies, viewers will have to add another service or abandon Netflix altogether. For now, Netflix is still going strong and the shrinking library hasn’t made too much of an impact on users.

7 Danny Masterson Scandal

Danny Masterson and Ashton Kutcher in The Ranch

Kevin Spacey isn’t the only controversial actor that Netflix has cut ties with. Danny Masterson, star of That 70’s Show and Netflix’s The Ranch, was the center of assault allegations this year.

As soon as the allegations dropped, viewers were calling for Netflix to fire him from their comedy series. Masterson was soon written out of the show, and production will continue in 2018 without him.

Masterson denied the allegations and expressed his disappointment in being fired from the show.

Netflix has made it clear to viewers that they do not tolerate harassment of any kind, getting a positive response from their users. While Masterson will appear a few times in the next season of The Ranch, the show will continue on without him.

6 Original Movie Step Sisters Boycott

Yet another Netflix original came under fire this year for perpetuating stereotypes. Their original movie Step Sisters has been boycotted by some users for cultural appropriation.

The movie is about the president of a black sorority teaching a white sorority how to step dance for a charity competition. Just the trailer for the movie caused controversy.

Twitter immediately lit up with criticism after it premiered. It was accused of being regressive, stereotypical, and encouraged cultural appropriation.

Actors in the movie encouraged people to wait and see it before judging. Some said after viewing the movie that it actually very self-aware and honest about racial relationships.

The problematic movie has had mixed reviews.  Regardless of whether or not the movie is culturally appropriate or not, the trailer resulted in a minor boycott of the service.

5 Disney Pulling Content

People of all ages love Disney movies. It’s always exciting when a new Disney film is added to the Netflix library. They won’t be streaming on there for much longer, though, because Disney is starting its own streaming service.

All of the Disney movies currently streaming, as well as new theatrically released films in 2018, will be available on Netflix until 2019. So movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story will be released on the service.

When they originally announced in 2016 that Disney movies would be leaving Netflix, fans were very upset. There are so many new streaming services forming, it’s hard to only have one in order to find all of the content you want.

When Disney's content does leave Netflix, it will be interesting to see if it has an impact on Netflix's user numbers.

4 Accessibility Issues

Netflix has been accused of not being accessible enough over the past few years. They’ve struggled with providing proper closed caption and audio descriptions.

People that are vision or hearing impaired enjoy having access to Netflix, so it’s important for the service to provide ways for them to watch and listen to their programs.

They’ve come under fire in the past for not providing closed caption on a lot of their content, and were even sued a few times. They’ve increased their use of closed caption since then.

Netflix is working to expand audio descriptions for visually impaired people so that they know what’s happening in scenes without dialogue. The audio description feature was first used with their original show Daredevil.

Disability advocates hope to see Netflix continue to work on their accessibility.

3 Cracking Down on VPNs

Netflix logo on Laptop

One of the most well-known Netflix hacks is finding a way to watch content that is only available in other countries. There are ways to bypass geographical limitations, but Netflix has cracked down on them.

The easiest way that users could bypass limitations was with a VPN service, which allowed them to to use other DNS servers to access Netflix. Since Netflix’s VPN ban, users have been frustrated that they can’t easily access the content that they used to be able to.

Netflix users couldn’t care less about the copyright law that restricts different content to different countries. It would be so much simpler if people could view everything everywhere.

While customers that never used a VPN may not notice a difference, Netflix’s VPN detector has severely restricted users who were used to accessing content from other countries.

2 Misleading DVD Allocation Process

Netflix DVD and Blu-ray app

Although Netflix is now a major instant streaming service, at one point, they dealt primarily in DVDs. Also at one point, they were in trouble for their DVD allocation process.

They gave priority shipping to customers who rented less movies per month. People who ordered more often had their orders delayed, routed to other places, or sent out of order. Despite advertising “unlimited rentals,” there was a limit where once a user rented enough, shipping would slow down.

Because all users paid the same fee, subscribers who only watched three or four DVDs a month made Netflix more money than people who watched five or six.

People who returned DVDs quicker in order to get another would mess with their profit margin. Angry customers would fill online forums with their complaints and Netflix was even sued over their DVD throttling.

1 Netflix Prize Contest

Netflix logo

Back in 2006, Netflix held their first Netflix Prize competition. The Netflix Prize was a contest to find the best algorithm to predict user ratings for movies. The first contest went fine, with BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos winning.

Their second one million dollar contest did not go as smoothly as the service expected, however. The contest gave people access to customer rental data and was eventually cancelled because of privacy concerns. Data privacy lawyers warned Netflix that the contest breached customer privacy.

Netflix was eventually sued for privacy invasion by a woman who claimed that the movie company made it possible for her to be outed as gay when it disclosed anonymous information about it’s customers for the contest.

Netflix was also contact by the FTC, and eventually cancelled their contest after reaching a deal.


Can you think of any other controversies that almost ended Netflix? Let us know in the comments!

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