Netflix to Nix Password Sharing—How That Impacts Your Family

The streaming giant is cracking down on password sharing in hopes of gaining new subscribers, but your family may get caught in the crosshairs.

Father and daughter watch something on a tablet.

Milles Studio / Stocksy

Picture this, you're on hour three of your family road trip. In a last-ditch effort to get your kids to stop arguing over who is breathing too loud, you sign into Netflix on their iPad and toss it to the back of the car. But then Netflix locks you out because the device is not signed in on your home network. Chaos ensues, and soon everyone is crying. It's the stuff of every parent's nightmares! And with Netflix's new password-sharing restrictions, this could very likely become a family road trip reality.

With more and more competition from other streaming platforms, Netflix is cracking down on password sharing. In a letter to their shareholders, Netflix announced new platform-sharing restrictions would go into place by the end of the first quarter of 2023, aiming for around March 31. But as of mid-February, the new policy is already being rolled out in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain.

On its website, Netflix says its goal is to give "members greater control over who can access their account." While it's not clear yet if the same provisions going into effect abroad will happen here in the U.S., the new protocols lay out some specific guidelines:

  • Set your primary location.
  • Manage who has access and on what devices.
  • If you do use someone else's account, Netflix says you can transfer a profile to a new account.
  • Buy extra members by creating sub-accounts for up to two people who don't live with you.
  • Your plan choice determines how many profiles you can have and the number of devices you use the service on.

But Netflix insists you'll still be able to watch while traveling by logging into a new TV at a hotel or rental property.

Of course, this assumes that all households are linear. Netflix said it would use information such as IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity to determine whether a device signed into the account is connected to the primary location.

First-world problem as it may be, the whole password crackdown is just plain annoying. Wasn't it Netflix that encouraged its users to share their passwords in the first place? It was in 2017 when Netflix shared this tweet:

The internet never forgets. While, according to Netflix, you won't be automatically charged for sharing a password, there are ways that you will have to verify that a device belongs to your "household."

For parents of college students who are frequently using devices away from home, you could end up having to periodically verify your kids' devices via a code Netflix will send by email. I suppose if you want to look on the bright side, this may get your college-aged kiddos to call home more! Once you receive the verification code via email you have 15 minutes to enter the code on the device or you'll have to request a new one. Doable, yes. Annoying? Also yes.

As a family that travels and frequently uses Netflix in hotels or vacation homes, I sincerely hope that the platform doesn't impose an additional fee to use their service while on the go. At the very least, Netflix, if you're going to keep charging more you can at least stop canceling our favorite shows!

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