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Netflix Lets Priciest Plan Download to Extra Devices, Adds More Spatial Audio

The tweaks come ahead of a planned password-sharing crackdown, which heightens the need for more devices to be permitted to download.

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James Martin/CNET

Netflix said Wednesday it's adding two perks to its Premium memberships, both at no added cost: Accounts on its most expensive plan will be able to download to six different mobile devices, up from four, and they will have access to more than 700 titles with "Netflix spatial audio," a sound format that creates 360-degree effects. 

Upping the download allowance to six devices, Netflix is lagging behind competitor Disney Plus, which allows subscribers to download to 10 devices on its Premium plan. (Some other streaming services limit the number of titles an account may download, rather than the number of devices: HBO Max caps the number of downloads at 30 for its higher-paying members, and Peacock limits downloads to 25 pieces of content with its top plan.)

The changes come as Netflix, the world's biggest subscription streaming video service of its kind, is poised to start a password-sharing crackdown. The company plans to start introducing fees in the next two months that will charge to share a membership between people who don't live together. And when you're paying extra to share a membership with more people, a lower limit on the number of devices allowed to download could crimp your usage.

Netflix had previously offered spatial audio formats -- Sennheiser Ambeo technology and Apple spatial audio for iPhones, iPads and Apple TV -- on some titles regardless of your membership tier. On Wednesday, the company is introducing what it calls "Netflix spatial audio" solely for Premium members on more than 700 titles. Titles include Stranger Things, Wednesday, Knives Out: Glass Onion and the upcoming season of You; you can find all titles by simply searching Netflix for "spatial audio."

Netflix's dominance of streaming video -- not to mention years of unflagging subscriber growth -- pushed nearly all of Hollywood's major media companies to pour billions of dollars into their own streaming operations. These so-called streaming wars brought about news services like Disney PlusHBO MaxPeacockParamount Plus and Apple TV Plus. This flood of streaming options has complicated how many services you must use (and, often, pay for) to watch your favorite shows and movies online. 

But with competition intensifying, Netflix recorded its deepest subscriber losses in a decade during the first half of last year. To cope, the company embarked on a series of major changes to its service. In addition to the upcoming account-sharing fees, Netflix rolled out a cheaper tier with ads in November, after years of dismissing the idea of advertising.