Netflix has officially cracked down on password sharing in the U.S. and several major markets. The move is controversial.
While the policy change was in the works for some time, it’s caused confusion among average Netflix users. Here’s what you need to know about the streamer’s password-sharing policies.
What is Netflix’s new password policy?
Netflix tested out the measure for subscribers in Latin America in 2022 before expanding the test to Canada, Spain, Portugal, and New Zealand in early 2023. By late May 2023, Netflix was ready to launch its crackdown on password sharing in the U.S. And as of July 2023, the password sharing crackdown is now global in markets that are able to access Netflix.
Netflix revealed its plan: It would restrict accounts to a single household, which Netflix defines as “a collection of the devices connected to the internet at the main place you watch Netflix.” To determine where a household is located, Netflix uses several factors like device ID and IP addresses.
“Over the last 15 years, we’ve worked hard to build a streaming service that’s easy to use, including for people who travel or live together,” Netflix wrote in a July 2022 post explaining the proposed changes. “It’s great that our members love Netflix movies and TV shows so much they want to share them more broadly. But today’s widespread account sharing between households undermines our long term ability to invest in and improve our service.”
What happens if you’re sharing your Netflix password?
Starting in late May, anyone whose account was being used outside their household received an email from Netflix alerting them about it. It allowed them to log other devices out of the account or change their passwords. It also gives people the option to let Netflix know when they’re traveling so they can use their account elsewhere.
But for those other profiles, Netflix provided two options. Subscribers could transfer profiles to a new account set up by that user, where they could choose from any of Netflix’s available subscription tiers. Subscription tiers run as low as $6.99/month (an ad-supported plan allowing you to watch most of Netflix’s offerings on up to two devices simultaneously). The ad-free options range from $9.99/month (basic, one device at a time) to $15.49/month (standard, two devices at a time) to $19.99/month (premium, four devices at a time). The tiers also determine how many devices you can download movies and shows onto and the video and audio quality.
But if someone wanted to continue sharing their account—which is only possible for standard or premium accounts—they could do so for an additional $7.99/month. (The maximum number of accounts you can add is two, for the premium tier.) However, you can only watch something on one account at a time, don’t get additional profiles, and it’s restricted to the same country as the original account.
If you’re using a shared password from someone else, you’ll get a full-screen message alerting you that you aren’t part of that account’s household.
Why did Netflix change its password policy?
For much of Netflix’s existence, people could share their Netflix password with just about anyone. There were some account restrictions: The subscription tier determined video quality and how many people could watch something on one account simultaneously. But for people using another person’s account to see a show or movie, those seemed pretty minor.
But in 2022, several things happened at once. Netflix lost subscribers over several quarters, and the value of the public company’s stock dropped drastically. Netflix had hit a wall and couldn’t grow any bigger. In a letter to shareholders around 2022’s Q1 earnings call, Netflix revealed that over 100 million households relied on password sharing. And while that wasn’t necessarily new information for Netflix, it was finally starting to affect its efforts to get more people to subscribe. And the way Netflix could do that was to make it much harder for people to share their passwords.
The calculus behind Netflix’s policy change is that restricting password sharing will result in more Netflix subscribers—and more money for Netflix. So far, that has reportedly panned out.
Why are people angry about Netflix’s new password policy?
It was immensely unpopular when Netflix announced its plan to curtail password sharing. Each new update to Netflix’s process didn’t change that.
The reasons for their anger vary. Some people liked the convenience of not paying for Netflix. Others believe a Netflix subscription is too expensive. Or that Netflix doesn’t offer enough original programming to warrant subscriptions to the increasingly expensive streaming service in a time when there are so many streaming services that paying for all of those subscriptions might be more expensive than paying for cable.
People also highlighted that it would prevent many college students—who are part of an existing household, yet don’t live at home for much of the year—from accessing Netflix.
But something that’s come up time and again is a single tweet.
While promoting the Judd Apatow series Love (which ran for three seasons and ended in 2018), Netflix’s Twitter account posted several tweets about what “love” is; some examples included an addiction, chemicals, complicated, and a “pain in the butt.” But one of Netflix’s most infamous tweets said, “Love is sharing a password.”
Netflix’s social media brand is known for appearing relatable and being up-to-date on how the internet talks. For the most part, that means that Netflix is sharing memes alongside people watching something on its first weekend. And while the Netflix account isn’t behind big decisions, it’s often the face of it. Backlash arose when it said Netflix canceled the One Day at a Time remake because “simply not enough people watched to justify another season,” fans of many of Netflix’s other nearly 100 (and counting) TV cancellations yelled at the account. A joking tweet to promote a TV show practically nobody remembers, posted in March 2017, is used to paint Netflix as a giant hypocrite—and for some reason, Netflix has yet to delete it.
How have people reacted to Netflix’s new password policy since its launch?
While Netflix subscriptions have been up in the last six months after the new policy, it’s also made Netflix into something of a punchline whenever Netflix makes headlines.
In one recent example, when reports of Netflix opening up a restaurant in Los Angeles were posted on social media, several people joked about how sharing food at the Netflix restaurant would lead to punishment. Those posts went viral.