Netflix really, really wants subscribers to stop sharing their passwords. So it’s letting them pay to add friends.

By 03/17/2022
Netflix really, really wants subscribers to stop sharing their passwords. So it’s letting them pay to add friends.

More than 220 million people around the world pay for a Netflix subscription every month.

And according to a 2021 survey using data from Mindnet Analytics, more than half of those subscribers have shared their account passwords with someone outside their immediate household.

Netflix is cool with subscribers sharing accounts. One of its core user-side functions these days is individual viewer profiles, where up to five individual family members can use one account, but keep separate watch histories, to-watch lists, and, perhaps most importantly, separate algorithmic presences for the purposes of things like personalized recommendations.


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But the key words there are family members. Netflix’s TOS technically only allows family members living under the same roof to share one account. Once a kiddo leaves the nest or someone breaks up with their significant other, they’re supposed to get their own account.

Of course, that doesn’t always happen—and even if it did, it wouldn’t stop the millions of people sharing their accounts with friends, school buddies, or coworkers.

Yes, you’re not supposed to, but at this point, people sharing their accounts is part of life in the digital age, especially with the ever-growing number of streaming services bidding for viewer dollars and the seemingly ever-rising cost of legit access to all those services. (Netflix, for example, pushed its monthly prices up yet again in January 2022. This writer in Canada is now paying $20.99 per month, compared to $13.99 in 2018. Eesh.)

Netflix seems to get that password-sharing probably isn’t going to stop. It tested a crackdown approach to the issue last year, forcing users to re-enter their login info if it detected accounts were being accessed by users at different IP addresses.

Now, though, it’s trying something new: Letting subscribers pay to add their friends.

Subscribers can pay for up two non-household users

“We’ve always made it easy for people who live together to share their Netflix account, with features like separate profiles and multiple streams in our Standard and Premium plans,” Chengyi Long, director of product innovation at Netflix, said in a company blog post. “While these have been hugely popular, they have also created some confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared. As a result, accounts are being shared between households—impacting our ability to invest in great new TV and films for our members.”

So, Netflix has spent the past year developing a way for users to add “sub accounts” for “up to two people they don’t live with—each with their own profile, personalized recommendations, login and password—at a lower price,” Long says.

How low is that “lower” price?

Netflix is testing non-household sharing in three countries: Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru. In Costa Rica, each sub account will cost $2.99 U.S. per month. In Chile, it’ll cost 2,380 CLP (also around $3 U.S.), and in Peru it’ll be 7.9 PEN (about $2).

The test will launch over the next few weeks. Per Variety, Netflix will notify some users within these regions if it detects that outside-of-household devices are logging in to their accounts. It’ll then prompt them to add sub accounts using the new feature.

In tandem with announcing pay-to-add-a-friend, Netflix said it’s also testing a second password sharing-busting feature that’ll let users transfer their personal profile from one Netflix account to another, or turn their profile into a sub account.

That means users who leave their households will be able to launch their own account with their watch history, list, and recommendations still intact. And for those who’ve been mooching off friends’/coworkers’/etcetera subscriptions, if those subscribers decide to tack them on as an official sub account, whatever profile they’ve been using will be preserved in their new role as a legit extra member.

As with any Netflix test, it’s possible neither of these features will be wrapped into the platform permanently. But either way, Netflix is clearly keeping a eye on password-sharing–and potential solutions for it.

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