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This new feature might be the end of Netflix password sharing

Updated Dec 22nd, 2022 7:09PM EST
Netflix password sharing
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Netflix is the biggest streaming service on the planet, and one of the perks of its success is that the people who run it don’t have to worry about users sharing their accounts. Netflix added a record-breaking 37 million paid subscribers in 2020, so you can see why Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said password sharing “is something you have to learn to live with” when he was asked about the practice in 2016. Five years later, has he changed his mind?

First spotted by The Streamable on Thursday, some Netflix users have started seeing a prompt telling them that they need to start their own account if they don’t live with the owner of the account they’re using:

Netflix has confirmed to CNBC that this is a test, and “hundreds” like it are performed every year, some of which result in new features, and some of which are scrapped while being tested. “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so,” Netflix said in a statement.

Here’s what Netflix’s official Terms of Use say about sharing one’s account with other households:

The Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household. During your Netflix membership, we grant you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access the Netflix service and view Netflix content through the service. Except for the foregoing, no right, title or interest shall be transferred to you. You agree not to use the service for public performances.

Netflix has never seriously enforced this rule, but if the test is successful in whatever way the company hopes it might be, this feature may lock out thousands of users that are sharing passwords with any friends and family members. My parents use my account, but with this feature, we’d have to exchange verification codes every time they wanted to log in — providing Netflix doesn’t just lock them out altogether because of their location.

It’s also worth noting that the Twitter user above said that she picked the “Verify Later” option and has yet to see the prompt again. This might suggest that the feature’s intent isn’t so much to scare people off from sharing passwords, but rather to nudge people in the direction of paying for their own accounts.

Finally, we should point out that Netflix ended its 30-day free trials in the US last October, but this prompt gives users the option to sign up for free for 30 days. We have no idea what this means for the future of the free trial, but it would certainly take some of the sting out if Netflix decides to move forward with this feature.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.