password policing

Netflix Is Cracking Down on Password Sharing

Illustration: Martin Gee

If you’ve recently (or not so recently) moved out of your parents’ home and expected to keep sharing a Netflix log-in ad infinitum, we have grim news. The largest paid streaming service in the business has decided that its 221 million subscriber accounts are not enough. Netflix decided March 16 that its latest streaming-wars battlefront would be password sharing. In a blog post titled “Paying to Share Netflix Outside Your Household,” the company announced that it’s testing measures that would charge accounts extra for allowing users to stream outside of a given household — a feckless ploy that would target both college students and empty-nester parents everywhere.

Asserting that Netflix’s existing profile options have “created some confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared,” the blog post outlines a test in the next few weeks of two new so-called “features” for members in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru: The option to add a “sub account” that you have to pay extra for and alternately the ability to transfer profiles to a new account, which would retain your algorithm-juicing history. Vulture asked Netflix why they chose Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru as their testing grounds for this, and the post will be updated if we hear back, but it’s common for them to test products in markets outside the United States. Rather than cut the moochers off, they want to convert subscribers into paying incrementally more for the moochers. In the post, Netflix director of product innovation Chengyi Long argues that password cadging impacts “our ability to invest in great new TV and films for our members.” I would argue that it’s totally fine, actually, and deploying any features that impact my father’s ability to watch Tick, Tick … Boom! on our account are misguided business decisions. But that’s just me.

To be fair, this is just a test. For now. Netflix doesn’t always widely implement the functionalities that they test. And the current cost of adding a subaccount is not terribly high: In Costa Rica, the charge is $3 a month atop the country’s existing Netflix subscription tiers, which start at $9. It’s also not unexpected given that streaming growth across the board is slowing and the company tested an account verification feature almost exactly a year ago. Still, no customer wants to pay more for something they’ve gotten for free for years. Netflix, by the way, raised its prices in the States recently, too.

Netflix Is Cracking Down on Password Sharing