Netflix Puts U.S. Password-Sharing Customers on Notice


Netflix’s worldwide efforts to squash password sharing are beginning to ramp up in the United States. The company has started reaching out directly to customers it suspects have been routinely using the same Netflix login across multiple home addresses. If that description sounds like you, you may have received (or may soon receive) an email from Netflix gently reminding you that “Your Netflix account is for you and the people you live with—your household.”

The company began sending out the formal notice to U.S. customers “who are sharing Netflix outside their household” today, according to a corporate blogpost published Tuesday afternoon. The email, titled “An update on sharing between households,” outlines Netflix’s recently instituted policy on password sharing, which is basically that its customers shouldn’t do it. All this from a company that tacitly endorsed account sharing back in 2017, when it tweeted “Love is sharing a password.” Things are clearly different now.

The new notice outlines customer options for coming into compliance with Netflix’s one-household policy. Per the email, users can transfer profiles to a separate account, boot unwanted devices from an account, and pay $7.99/month to share an account with someone outside of their household. This last feature is only available to Netflix customers paying for the Standard or Premium account tiers, according to the company’s help center.

In an earlier password sharing crackdown that began in February in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain, Netflix instituted a similar “extra member” option. However, factoring in exchange rates, the cost for adding an extra in the U.S. is more than it was at launch in any of these other countries. The $7.99 charge is $1 more than the cheapest, ad-based Netflix plan, but $2 less than the cheapest add-free subscription. However, access to the $7.99 option is contingent on someone paying a base rate of at least $15.49 per month.

Netflix says U.S. customers who are currently sharing accounts across households should begin to get this email in their inboxes starting today.
Screenshot: Netflix / Gizmodo

Though today’s blog and email indicate that Netflix is moving to make changes for U.S. customers, the announcement is short on some details. The Netflix email directs recipients to the company’s help center, but doesn’t offer a timeline on when shared accounts might have their access cut off—or how exactly that might look.

The company has said that U.S. Netflix users will not simply be forced out of shared accounts, but rather will start to be directed to a flow of options on their TVs or other devices when they try to access Netflix. Presumably, these options will be similar to the ones outlined in the email: Sign up for separate accounts and transfer the relevant profiles or have a primary account holder pay for hangers-on. This process is set to roll-out slowly over the next few weeks and months, not instantaneously with all customers—in a similar fashion to the email notifications themselves.

Netflix claims that this crackdown on account sharing won’t hurt customers who use their account while traveling. “You can easily watch Netflix on the go and when you travel—either on your personal devices or a TV at a hotel or vacation home,” but a company spokesperson declined to offer any further details about how Netflix will ensure that.

The streaming giant’s push to limit account sharing follows a turbulent few years for the company’s bottom line. It lost subscribers two quarters in a row in 2022. Amid increasing competition and the inevitable diminishing returns of a market reaching saturation, Netflix announced that it would begin the process of forcing password-sharers to fall into line last year. Though it began testing out features meant to discourage account mooching in 2021.

As for why the company is beginning to expand its login crackdown to the U.S. now, the answer comes from its most recent earning report. “We’re pleased with the results of our Q1 launches in Canada, New Zealand, Spain and Portugal, strengthening our confidence that we have the right approach,” Netflix execs wrote in their April letter to shareholders. “We found enough improvement opportunities in these areas to shift a broad launch to Q2 to implement those changes.” The company reported subscriber increases in Latin America—where it first rolled out strengthened password sharing restrictions in July 2022.

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