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How Netflix will enforce its ban on password sharing

Netflix started enforcing the rules in the UK on May 23 after gradually implementing them in other markets, including Latin America, Spain and Canada, in 2022 (PA Archive)
Netflix started enforcing the rules in the UK on May 23 after gradually implementing them in other markets, including Latin America, Spain and Canada, in 2022 (PA Archive)

Now that Netflix has begun clamping down on password sharing in the UK, it may be time to familiarise yourself with the company’s revised policy.

Under the new regime, Netflix will restrict viewership of its programming to people living in the same household. Customers signed up to Netflix’s Standard or Premium plans — which cost £11 and £16 respectively in the UK — can pay £5 per month to give additional viewers access to their account.

Netflix started enforcing the rules in the UK on May 23 after gradually implementing them in other markets, including Latin America, Spain and Canada, in 2022. The clampdown on password sharing marks a U-turn for the company that turned a blind eye to the practice for years amid a rise in viewers.

How does Netflix’s password-sharing clampdown work?

As part of the new rules, you are allowed to stream Netflix from only one location. While it is flexible enough to let you use your account in a hotel while on holiday, or on the go through your phone, extended use in homes other than your own will be blocked.

Nevertheless, if you want to keep sharing your account, you can add an extra member by paying a monthly fee of £5 on top of your subscription. Standard members can add up to one extra person to their account who resides in the same country, while Premium members can add two people.

Although this costs less than paying for a new ad-free Netflix plan, the cheapest of which costs £7 per month, it does have its setbacks compared with some of the other subscriptions.

Chiefly, extra members can stream and download on only one device at a time, instead of multiple devices on the Standard and Premium tiers. Although you can transfer existing profiles when you create an extra member slot, you can not set up a kid's profile on these additional accounts.

What is a Netflix household?

Netflix “households” form the crux of the new policy.

To catch rule-breakers, Netflix is essentially counting the internet-connected devices you use to view Netflix at your main address. This includes virtually any device with a screen that can play Netflix, including TVs, phones, tablets, laptops, and computers.

Netflix says it uses information such as IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity to determine whether the people watching are part of your household.

Netflix says it will automatically confirm your household unless you choose to do so manually. If you want to set up a household, you can do so through the Netflix help menu on your TV. Netflix will then send you an email or text for verification.

If you don’t watch Netflix on a TV, the company says you don’t need to set up a household.

How many people share Netflix passwords?

Netflix said in 2022 that more than 100 million households worldwide used the video-streaming service without paying, by using a shared account.

Tackling password sharing is Netflix’s strategy to reinvigorate the service’s growth. This was fantastic at the start of the Covid pandemic, but has all but flatlined. Analysts from Ampere Analysis have predicted Netflix would lose 200,000 UK subscribers in 2023.

Netflix addressed this slowed growth in a letter to its shareholders early in 2022. “Account sharing as a percentage of our paying membership hasn’t changed much over the years but, coupled with [slow broadband and connected TV adoption], means it’s harder to grow membership in many markets — an issue that was obscured by our Covid growth,” the letter said.