Netflix CEO Says He Won’t ‘Turn the Screws’ on Password Sharing

If you’ve been borrowing someone else’s Netflix password, even with their permission, you may not be able to continue doing so. Netflix is currently testing a way to limit the sharing of passwords between different households (via CNET). Given that the practice is commonplace, it’s not surprising that Netflix wants to minimize it. Upon attempting to log in to an account outside their household, some users are receiving a pop-up message stating: “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.” In some areas, Netflix will offer a free 30 day trial to those who need to create accounts.

So far it seems that only users logging in through the TV (versus iOS or Roku, for example) have run into the issue. The Streamable noted the reports of Netflix users having difficulties on Twitter. They contacted the streamer for a statement. Netflix stated, “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so.”

Netflix logo


If a user receives the message in error, they can request a verification code. Of course, one could work around that limitation too.

Password sharing has occurred since Netflix launched its streaming platform. CEO Reed Hastings stated in 2016 during an earnings webcast that it was something “you have to learn to live with.” He commented that so much legitimate password sharing happens between spouses and kids that it was just part of the business. However, it looks like the streaming service has moved on from that sentiment. In October 2019 chief product officer Greg Peters said the company was monitoring password sharing but had no big plans to announce in regards to what they would do about it.

Hastings shared an update in a quarterly earnings interview on Tuesday. Responding to a question from Fidelity, Hastings said, “We test many things, but we would never roll something out that feels like ‘turning the screws,’ as you said. It has got to feel like it makes sense to consumers, that they understand. And Greg’s been doing a lot of great research trying variants that harmonize with the way consumers think about it.”

So it’s not entirely off the table. Peters followed up, “…we want to make sure that people who are using a Netflix account, who are accessing it, are authorized to do so—and that’s what this line of testing is about. It’s not necessarily a new thing. We’ve been doing this for awhile, so you may see it pop up here and there in different ways. But it’s the same framework that we use in [terms of] how we think about continuously improving the service … we use the test and test results to inform and guide how we produced and continue to make it better and better.”

It’s easy to see why they’d start taking action. New streaming services like Disney+ are gaining subscribers at a rapid rate (they’re over 100 million subscribers). Netflix is leaving money on the table if they don’t enforce it.

Originally published March 11, 2021.

Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of The Jedi Mind, available now. Follow her on  Twitter and Instagram.

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