The Netflix Password-Sharing Crackdown Has Begun

The Netflix Password-Sharing Crackdown Has Begun
Photo: ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP, Getty Images

Bad news for streamers mooching their Netflix access.

Netflix is testing a feature seemingly meant to curb password-sharing between users who are not members of the same household. An image of an email message prompting its user to sign up for “your own Netflix for free today” was shared on Twitter and reported by multiple outlets that confirmed the test. In the Netflix prompt shared on Twitter, the service states that if you do not “live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.” That policy is included in Netflix’s terms of use.

“This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorised to do so,” a Netflix spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter.

Interestingly, the service seems to be baiting these users to subscribe with the offer of a 30-day free trial of the service. Netflix formally nixed its free trial offer last year, though it does offer free upgrades to higher plans during the first month after a user signs up for or rejoins Netflix. For example, if you signed up for the standard plan, Netflix may boost you to the premium plan for a trial period. The benefit here is trialing features like HD or UHD streaming (which are only available on the standard and premium plans, respectively), simultaneous viewing on multiple devices, or additional devices to keep downloads on for offline viewing.

But it appears the company is making free trial exceptions for people it knows are using its service but aren’t paying for it. That’s probably wise on Netflix’s part. After all, users being asked to pay a minimum of $US9 ($12) and a maximum of $US18 ($23) per month for a service they have managed to access for free for years will be a tough pill to swallow — particularly if they’re already subscribed to multiple other services.

According to a survey of 1,546 U.S. adults from LendingTree released today, 4 in 10 respondents were found to be using someone else’s credentials to stream. Additionally, the survey found that Netflix was the most popular account to “borrow,” with 52% of respondents reporting that they used Netflix with someone else’s login.

Netflix runs trials quite frequently for everything from linear viewing to timer-based viewing, and the company often says that tests don’t always lead to a wider rollout of the feature or tool. The same may be true for the trial it’s currently running around password-sharing, which isn’t the best security practice anyway. But I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping — praying, really — that password crackdowns aren’t the next new thing in streaming.