Do you share your Netflix password with family members who’re not living with you? Do you have a “Netflix Group” of friends who pay for one account and share it? That might all come to an end, as Netflix says they’re looking at ways to push back on that.
Password sharing has been an ongoing issue for Netflix and all of the other streaming video services as well.
If you are subscribed to Netflix’ “Standard Plan” (£8.99/month), you can stream content on up to two devices at the same time. The Premium Plan (£11.99) lets you stream on up to four devices.
This means that up to four individuals, who can even be in different countries, can watch Netflix at the same time, under the same account. Of course, this also means Netflix gets just one paying subscriber instead of four.
Last week, in Netflix’ Q3 2019 earnings interview call, Greg Peters, Netflix’s chief product officer, was asked whether the company was planning to deal with “Password sharing, stealing, or whatever you want to call it”, and how to do it without “alienating a certain portion of the user base”.
Mr Peters said that Netflix “continue to monitor it so we’re looking at the situation, and we’ll see to get consumer-friendly ways to push on the edges of that. But we’ve got no big plans to announce at this time of doing something different there.”
If Netflix does decide to crack down on password sharing at some point, it will be similar to their ongoing fight against VPN usage. During the first years of Netflix’ streaming service, it was fairly easy to pretend you’re streaming from a different country, in order to access a larger content library (also known as Geo-Bypassing).
But in 2016, following pressure from content production companies, Netflix upped their game and started to block Geo-Bypassing services and VPNs. However, the ban of VPNs was so broad, that even people who were using VPNs for other purposes – such as protecting their privacy – were unable to watch Netflix (even their local one) while their VPN was on.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wasn’t impressed with the uproar, as The Independent reported at the time, saying “It’s a very small but quite vocal minority. So it’s really inconsequential to us.”
Despite that, however, services that let you watch American Netflix anywhere in the world still exist.
It seems password sharing is a much more common habit than Geo-Bypassing, which might explain why Netflix now talks about “Consumer-friendly” ways of fighting it – as to not anger all those who use it sparingly.