Netflix Takes Steps Towards Ending Shared Accounts

Netflix Takes Steps Towards Ending Shared Accounts

Netflix initially welcomed when individuals shared passwords, but the streaming service is now cracking down on the activity in some countries.

For many years, Netflix took an unusual approach to the phenomenon of users sharing their passwords with others. Netflix didn’t seem all that upset about it. 

“We love people sharing Netflix,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a speech in 2016. “That's a positive thing, not a negative thing.”

Before long, it became common for people to continue using Netflix passwords of either their parents, friends, or former romantic partners. 

In recent years, there have been indications that Netflix is losing its patience with the practice of password sharing. The company joined the anti-piracy consortium known as the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment in 2017. Chief product officer Greg Peters said two years later that the company was “looking at consumer-friendly ways to push back at the edges of password sharing.”

In 2021, Netflix began showing users in some markets a message that said, “start your own Netflix for free today—If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”

The company described it at the time as a test. 

But now, Netflix has officially announced an effort to get people who have used other peoples’ accounts to sign up themselves. In a Wednesday blog post, Netflix executive Chengyi Long laid out how it will work. 

“We’ve always made it easy for people who live together to share their Netflix account, with features like separate profiles and multiple streams in our Standard and Premium plans,” Long wrote. “While these have been hugely popular, they have also created some confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared. As a result, accounts are being shared between households—impacting our ability to invest in great new TV and films for our members.”

Netflix has created a way for individuals in violation of this policy to get their own accounts. Moreover, the company has introduced an option outside of the United States that gives account owners the chance to add an extra member at a reduced price.

“For the last year, we’ve been working on ways to enable members who share outside their household to do so easily and securely, while also paying a bit more,” Long wrote. “And over the next few weeks, we’ll launch and test two new features for our members in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru.”

Netflix subscribers on the standard and premium plans in those three countries can add sub-accounts for two people who don’t live with them. Those currently sharing accounts will be able to easily transfer their profile to a new account.

“We recognize that people have many entertainment choices, so we want to ensure any new features are flexible and useful for members, whose subscriptions fund all our great TV and films,” the post said. “We’ll be working to understand the utility of these two features for members in these three countries before making changes anywhere else in the world.”

It’s still not clear when those changes might roll out in the United States.

How High Can Netflix Go? 

Netflix was a big winner during the early days of the pandemic, gaining subscribers and viewership during the months when Americans were stuck at home. Since then, however, momentum has slowed. After selling for over $600 per share last November, the company’s stock was trading at $357.53 last week. Shares crashed in January after a weak earnings report.

Indiewire recently reported that Netflix’s best bet for growth remains outside the United States.

 “Netflix still has real room to grow in the wealthier countries of Europe and Japan and South Korea, but the biggest growth opportunities are coming from less developed nations,” the report said. 

Will There Be Ads?

While Disney has announced that it might eventually put advertising on Disney+, a Netflix executive said this week that the company does not currently plan to use advertising. 

According to Entrepreneur, Netflix CFO Spencer Neuman said that “it’s not like we have a religion against advertising,” adding that Netflix would “never say never.”

Indeed, a “Future of Content” session at the South by Southwest conference last week also discussed the idea. Media analyst Gavin Bridge predicted that Netflix will eventually take the leap and sell ads. 

“They are going to have ads in the future at some point,” Bridge said of Netflix. “Maybe five years? It’s going to happen.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.