Netflix says it’s cool if you share your account with friends and family

Patrick O'Rourke

January 11, 2016 6:45pm

To the surprise of many, a few years ago, Richard Plepler, HBO’s CEO, said his company did not care if users shared their HBO password with friends and family. It looks like Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, has similar feelings about the sometimes controversial practice of account sharing.

In an announcement that was overshadowed by the company’s massive expansion into 130 new countries, Hastings said his company views subscribers sharing their Netflix passwords as “a positive thing.” HBO’s Pleper once said that he saw account sharing as a “terrific marketing vehicle” for encouraging people to sign up for the service by exposing the product and brand to a wider audience.

It seems Hastings has similar thoughts on Netflix account sharing, explaining that people sharing a Netflix account username and password are likely to go on to become full-fledged subscribers down the line.

To illustrate his feelings, Hastings explained that a child who became exposed to Netflix through a parent’s account could eventually come to owner their own subscription.

“As kids move on in their life, they like to have control of their life, and as they have an income, we see them separately subscribe,” said Hastings to reporters at CES. “It really hasn’t been a problem,” added Hastings, discussing Netflix account sharing in general.

In Hasting’s mind, subscribing to your own Netflix account almost seems like a coming-of-age milestone.

Related reading: Netflix expands to 130 new regions, including Russia, India and South Korea

  • Raj Singh

    I dislike being the only one that pays for it.

    • MassDeduction

      I pay extra to have more streams, and then charge $60 a year up-front (the equivalent of $5/month) for people who want to share my subscription. I charge up-front, so there’s no risk to me, nor is it a big hassle.

    • Laer

      If it’s for dependents that are coming of age or possibly your grandmother that’s great.

      Definitely not something I’d bother with for a friend’s sake though.

      As a side note, I’d really wish Spotify would loosen up a bit. I have multiple stereos in my life… Just like many homes have multiple TV sets.

    • MassDeduction

      Curious, why wouldn’t you bother for a friend’s sake? I’ve put on one set of relatives, and two sets of friends. They save vs. getting their own subscriptions, and they pay for most of mine (it costs me $12 a month plus tax, but they each give me $60 per year each which is about 75% of the annual cost after taxes).

    • Interesting, I’ve never heard of someone doing that before. Seems like a lot of work to save just a few dollars.

    • Elton Bello

      I had great respect for MassDeduction through his posts. Now I’ve lost it all.

    • MassDeduction

      I apologize for falling off that pedestal for you. Though doing so for this, of all reasons, is a bit of a surprise to me honestly. Isn’t the whole point of the article that we’re commenting on that Netflix is totally OK with it?

    • MassDeduction

      I didn’t do it to save money. It all started with a friend who has neither a credit card nor a PayPal account and couldn’t get Netflix on his own. I had another friend who felt they couldn’t afford Netflix so chose to go without, so I offered to let them share and they offered to subsidize it to the degree they felt they could afford to.

    • Eluder

      There’s no risk anyway, you simply change to a lower tier and kick everyone off your account through the Netflix console and change your password. Voila, zero risk involved.

    • Humbre

      I love how you just blatantly admitted to resell your Netflix account MassDesduction.

      I imagine you are aware that does against Netflix’s own Terms of Use 6 (e).

      “You agree not to […] offer for sale, or use (except as explicitly authorized in these Terms of Use) content and information contained on or obtained from or through the Netflix service without express written permission from Netflix and its licensors.”

    • bensento

      I don’t think that would consider it re-selling, its more of an agreement towards helping pay the total bill, as he is still paying partial amounts. Its like having roomates help pay rent.

    • Humbre

      You can’t be serious…

    • bensento

      I can be very serious. There is nothing wrong with other contributing towards the price of the service. If they are allowing you to share with others, than its perfectly acceptable to charge a user under you for partial cost of the service. If you are making money, ie – charging more than the service costs you, then yes, its selling the service out. but under the cost there is no issue, as its just contributing to the cost itself.

    • Humbre

      I bow to your great knowledge Bensento. You obviously know more than me regarding terms of use policies.

    • bensento

      Thank you! ^_^

    • MassDeduction

      I wasn’t aware of that. Thank you for informing me. Curious then that the CEO is specifically recommending people share accounts then, as reported in this Mobile Syrup article.

      I think they’re chiefly concerned with people doing it with a profit motive. That isn’t my agenda. It all started because one of my friends has neither a credit card nor a PayPal account, and he couldn’t get Netflix on his own. So I added a profile for him on my account using the tools Netflix provides, and increased my tier from $7.99 to $11.99.

      At that point there were three of us (I already had a relative sharing it with me), but I was paying for four simultaneous streams, so it seemed natural to get a fourth person so that fourth stream wasn’t entirely going to waste. So it was never about a profit motive, and still isn’t. I’m not making money sharing my Netflix account, simply defraying my cost (a cost that increased because of the sharing).

      I do like to follow the rules. There’s a Japanese show I’ve been wanting to watch for years, and was even given a link to watch it for free via a private/unpublished Youtube account. Instead I elected not to do so and am I’m currently purchasing the show in increments at a cost of $40 for a disc of four episodes (seven discs total). Instead of watching it for free illegally, I’m purchasing it legally at the equivalent of $10 for a single 22 minute episode. I passionately believe in intellectual property rights. I didn’t realize there was that clause in the Netflix terms of service, but knowing that and also knowing that the CEO is endorsing that behaviour leaves me uncertain that even Netflix would want me to make a change.

    • Elton Bello

      Wow, shame on you. Had great respect for you from your posts. Not anymore…

    • MassDeduction

      Shame on me when my comment is on an article from the Netflix CEO specifically endorsing that kind of behaviour? And when Netflix even offers tools to help me do it, such as individual profiles?

      If Netflix discouraged that kind of behaviour, then I’d happily stop and get my two friends (the third is a relative) to get their own accounts. If they chose to. And I’d drop my account down at least one tier, maybe two, so I’d pay less per month. So I’m not sure it would be in Netflix’s best interest for me to do so. One of the two friends I help out get Netflix doesn’t even have a credit card or a PayPal account, so I’m not sure he even could get a Netflix account on his own.

  • MassDeduction

    Netflix controls the number of streams you’re allowed. For new subscribers (and for current subscribers once their grandparented plans run $7.99/month gets you one stream in standard definition, $9.99/month gets you up to two simultaneous streams in HD, and $11.99/month gets you up to four simultaneous streams in up to 4K.

    If more people want to simultaneously watch Netflix than the number of streams, then it won’t let you. So that encourages people to pay for a higher tier. No way am I giving out my password to more people than could concurrently watch Netflix on my account. I’m on the $11.99 tier for just that reason, and have shared my password with three other households so that all four of us can watch simultaneously without any problems. If I gave it out to a fifth, there’s the potential for it to be a problem.

    As long as they’re managing/enforcing the number of streams, I don’t see how this is a problem for Netflix.

  • Colton Blumhagen

    Of course Netflix doesn’t care, why do you think they have the option to add multiple users for 1 account?

    • Orage42

      And it works wonders. Go Netflix!

  • JD

    It works. We lend ours out after a while they get their own as they don’t want to inconvenience us.

  • Yoda’s Spirit

    It’s nice to share accounts without getting into trouble. We share and use Mediahint to watch the UK and US versions from overseas too. Share and share alike!

  • Syaz

    I upgraded my Netflix account so I could give the gift of Netflix to my sisters as they bought houses. I’m at the top tier Netflix plan; for 12 bucks a month, it’s not bad and my siblings benefit too.

    • Orage42

      Those make great gifts. I do the same with my Netflix, and have recently changed my Google Play Music account to a family plan which I gifted to my whole family on Christmas.

    • Andrew_notPorC

      I am planning to do the same with Play Music, especially once Youtube Red comes to Canada.

  • Love how they embrace how people actually live vs trying to milk us for every dollar. Someone up top there gets it – this will earn them a lot of good will and I will choose this service over a competitor who is all crazy and tries to lock you down at every corner which would then make it hard for me to login from a friend’s house/IP (i.e. make the experience difficult for the majority because of the minority)

  • Andrew_notPorC

    I share a $12 plan with my parents and my three siblings (5 households). We have never had any issue with more than 4 simultaneous streams. It makes it extremely cost effective. I compare my cost per month to what Bell/Rogers charges for TV and the difference in value (utility/$) is huge.

    • MassDeduction

      Are you certain that five or more streams have ever been in use simultaneously? Maybe you’ve just lucked out until now. 🙂

    • Andrew_notPorC

      Clarification: we have never had more than 4 people using simultaneously, so it has not been a problem.

  • CanadianGuy37

    I may share a Netflix account that I don’t pay for, but I AM AN ADULT!!! 😉

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