Netflix announced last year it is testing a major change that may result in how members can share an account.
Up until now, the standard plan, about $15 a month, allowed the primary user to share an account with a trusted friend or family member. Thus, a parent might watch a movie on a smart TV while an offspring watches another movie on a smartphone.
Two screens, one account.
It wasn’t long before Netflix had created a monster. The “trusted friend” would share the account and password with one or more other users. Those users would share with other users. Pretty soon, a bush had grown from what was a single twig.
And it wasn’t just Netflix. It’s happening with all streaming services.
“How bad is it?”
Glad you asked. Lily Hay Newman, senior writer for WIRED magazine, audited a Hulu account she had — or rather, a friend of hers had that she was using — and found more than 90 other devices were connected with the same account and password.
That announcement a year ago of a testing period resulted in a new policy that the company announced last month. The new policy will be tested in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru before being expanded to other counties. Members on Netflix’s Standard and Premium plans will be able to add up to two members who do not live with them for $3 a month each. Those new accounts will be sub accounts on the member’s account, but each user will have their own profiles, recommendations, log-ins and passwords.
“We recognize that people have many entertainment choices, so we want to ensure any new features are flexible and useful for members, whose subscriptions fund all our great TV and films,” the company said in a press release. “We’ll be working to understand the utility of these two features for members in these three countries before making changes anywhere else in the world.”
If you haven’t shared your account name and password, there is little chance that another household might be using it as well. Still, it’s good to check as a precaution. If you have shared the account, there’s a good possibility — as exampled above — that it could be getting a lot of use.
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To find out, log in to Netflix, click on your profile, go to “settings” and then “recent device streaming activity.” There will be entries showing the date and time of the last streaming activity for each device using the account, along with its location and IP address.
If there are unknown devices using the account, it’s time to get rid of them. To do that, use the profile icon to open up a screen that includes “sign out of all devices.” The devices will be wiped out, so now the password to the account can be changed to prevent those devices from simply rejoining the account.
The recent announcement has started the rumor that Netflix will prohibit account sharing in the United States, but a Netflix spokesperson said it only applies in the three counties: Chile, Peru and Costa Rica. It may or may not be expanded beyond those countries.
Cowen & Co., a financial services company, conducted a survey last month that found about 10% of the 116 million households with broadband in the United Sates included someone who watched Netflix but was not an authorized subscriber. The company also estimated that if the plan were rolled out worldwide, it could add about $1.6 billion to the Netflix bottom line.
Netflix has about 221 million paid subscribers around the world. Of those, about a third are in the United States and Canada.
Lonnie Brown can be reached at [email protected].