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Thoughts on Netflix Locking Down Password Sharing

March 13, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

Some of you out there are about to encounter some problems the next time you try to log onto Netflix. Seems like the streaming service is taking steps to limit password sharing, forcing watchers to either pay for their own or skip Netflix altogether. 

Word has quickly made the rounds that this could be the beginning of a focused piracy crackdown by Netflix, which has gone pretty easy on password sharing in the past. 

Spotted by GammaWire, some watchers attempting to use somebody else’s account are now being held back by a screen that states, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”

A clear sign of things to come and Netflix has confirmed that the new feature is receiving a limited rollout. “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so,” said a Netflix spokesperson.

When faced with the screen, the viewer is given the option of either verifying their identity, which is done by a text or email code, or opting to “verify later,” which gives them an unspecified amount of time to continue watching and later confirm they are a valid account user.

Word is coming back that the extent of the rollout varies from country to country, but noted that one of the reasons for the addition is to help protect subscribers from security concerns that can come up from unauthorized use of their account.

Netflix has historically not attempted to strictly police password sharing and this shift might signal a new tactic that will be felt across a number of streaming services. “Password sharing is something you have to learn to live with,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings saoid in 2016, “because there’s so much legitimate password sharing — like you sharing with your spouse, with your kids … so there’s no bright line, and we’re doing fine as is.”

Looks like that has changed. THR senior editor Eriq Gardner predicted in 2019 that piracy crackdowns could be the next front in the streaming wars after the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment announced a working group to reduce unauthorized access to content.

The organization is described as “an antipiracy spinoff of the MPAA,” Gardner noted, “The economics of streaming nearly demand it. Platforms are spending billions of dollars annually on both original content and rights to old shows. To become profitable, media companies will need to grow paid subscribers rapidly. AT&T boldly predicted 50 million subs for HBO Max by 2024. As part of that push, it may prove irresistible to target the more than one-fifth of young adults who, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, say they borrow passwords from people who do not live with them.”

Who could be next? Time will tell. HBO Max might just be waiting for the right technology. “I don’t think we’re going to get to a punitive environment, lawsuits being filed against folks,” WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in 2019. “But I do believe the technology’s starting to get better to start paying attention to extensive abuse — when we see 14 locations logged into HBO on a Sunday night with 16 different streams going, we’re aware of those things. As growth taps out, I think the industry will come up with a method that’s a bit more rigorous.”

Will this new move by Netflix change your viewing habit?

article topics :

Netflix, Steve Gustafson