There’s an old joke that made the rounds on Twitter a few years back which said that there’s only one Netflix subscriber in the world and that his password was being shared by millions of people.
While password sharing outside of family members is technically not something Netflix allows, it’s also something Netflix has historically not done anything to stop or even prevent. For the most part, Netflix has seemed happy enough to let people share their passwords far and wide and simply upcharge folks who want to increase the number of screens that can be watched concurrently.
There have been rumblings, however, that Netflix’s passive response to password sharing may soon be coming to an end. Earlier this year, some Netflix users started seeing a prompt indicating that they need to sign up for their own account if they don’t live with the owner of the signed-in account.
O no. Netflix doing the purge?!? pic.twitter.com/XXlHtfgfsy
— sally, that girl (@DOP3Sweet) March 9, 2021
Netflix at the time said it was simply running a test designed “to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so.”
The message, even if not widely seen, led many to believe that Netflix may finally start getting serious about cracking down on password sharing. It’s worth noting that an estimated 33% of Netflix users share their passwords with individuals outside of their family.
And recall, Netflix’s user agreement reads in part: “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. “
In light of the above, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, during the company’s earnings conference call this week, was asked directly if Netflix was planning on “turning the screws.”
The topic came up when Nidhi Gupta asked the following question:
You’ve started to run some tests and in certain markets, I think maybe just the U.S. on limiting account sharing. Can you talk about the size of the opportunity here, and why now is kind of the right time to ask start tightening the screws on that?
Hastings responded: “We will test many things, but we would never roll something out that feels like turning the screws as you said. It’s got to feel like it makes sense to consumers that they understand. we will test many things, but we would never roll something out that feels like turning the screws as you said. It’s got to feel like it makes sense to consumers that they understand.”
Suffice it to say, if Netflix does ever take a strong stance against password sharing, it stands to reason it’s not going to be an abrupt decision that catches consumers off guard.
One of the more interesting questions levied by analysts asked if there was a particular market or country where password sharing was exceptionally high. Netflix executive Greg Peters, however, didn’t provide much of a direct answer.
Every market, every country is different, and so we see different ranges of behavior. And I think just how people orient themselves to the service is different from country to country. So I want to – it’s more than just sort of how they think about how maybe they are working the system or so forth, how did they think about sharing the service with an extended family or people that they love is a natural part of how they connect with the stories that we’re telling. So it’s all different around the planet, and it’s different within countries, too, as you might well expect.
Long story short: password sharing on Netflix isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And so, millions of Netflix viewers can now collectively breathe a sigh of relief.