Is the streaming giant actually going to kick grandma off your account? Plus, the best way to share passwords with anyone, anywhere.
Recent reporting that Netflix was starting to crack down on password sharing sent shivers down the internet’s collective spine. The concern is warranted, as research shows many of us would be caught out if such a policy were widely enacted. According to research firm Magid, 33% of subscribers to streaming services (not just Netflix) share their passwords with other people. (And password sharing, in general, isn’t a narrow phenomenon—it’s also rampant in the workplace for professional accounts.)
If that statistic is accurate, that means about 66 million of Netflix’s reported 200+ million subscribers are sharing their account with at least one other person. Analysts estimate that this sharing “costs” Netflix $6.2 billion in unrealized revenue. But changing their policies or even just trying to enforce what’s already there could end up being more trouble than even $6.2 billion is worth.
Password sharing isn’t unilaterally against Netflix’s terms of service; their policy is against sharing “beyond your household.” Analyst Nat Schindler says that of Netflix-specific subscribers, 26% self-reported sharing passwords, with fully half of that number asserting that they were sharing with family members who live in multiple locations. Does that still count as a household?
The speculation about the crackdown arose after some customers reported seeing the in-app message “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.” This indicates a narrower definition of “household” than perhaps many have. After seeing the message, customers had the option to verify with a two-factor authentication (2FA) code that they owned the account, to buy their own plan right then and there, or to complete this verification later. (Nothing stopped a customer from verifying the account by contacting the actual account owner for the 2FA code.)
Netflix has long acknowledged password sharing as a somewhat-inevitable pitfall of their business model. CEO Reed Hastings has even remarked that some account sharing is a “positive thing” and that it’s something Netflix has to “learn to live with.”
It seems pretty clear now that this rumored crackdown was (and is likely to remain) simply a test. Netflix may find that just prompting people to verify might be enough of a nudge to get some to subscribe even if the enforcement is ultimately toothless.
It’s likely, too, that Netflix realizes that their affable, accessible, consumer-friendly brand would be harmed by a move that many would characterize as curmudgeonly. A password-sharing crackdown on a service that’s explicitly for entertainment would definitely garner backlash after a year of increased economic hardships for consumers, when many were affected by joblessness and other pandemic-related financial strains. And with the streaming giant’s 2020 revenue coming in at $25 billion dollars, sympathy for the corporation’s “plight” would likely be in short supply.
Faced with the added pressure of increased competition from relatively new streaming services like Disney+, Netflix might be making a careful calculation: Would the potential profits from additional subscriptions outweigh the hit to brand reputation as indignant customers jump ship in an increasingly commoditized streaming space? With brand a more important differentiator than before, the answer is most likely no.
It will probably not surprise you that a password management company like Dashlane doesn’t recommend sharing passwords willy-nilly. There’s a way to share passwords as securely as possible, and then there’s the way most people share passwords.
Giving another person access to any online account you own is risky for several reasons:
It’s important to stress that any time you give someone access to an account you own, you’re taking a risk. However, there are ways to share a password that are much more secure (and even more convenient) than sending it to someone in plaintext. You’re going to be absolutely shocked, but the answer is:
You should only ever share passwords through a password manager.
Why? Here are 5 great reasons:
Even if you don’t currently share your Netflix password within (or “beyond”) your household, you can still share any password safely and easily using an app like Dashlane.