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The era of Netflix password sharing will end soon, somehow

Wall Street Journal reports that Netflix’s crackdown will begin in “early 2023”

Bright colorful illustration of Netflix logo Illustration: Ariel Davis for Polygon

Netflix is expected to roll out anti-account sharing measures in the United States early in 2023, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Exactly how those measures will work, how much they’ll cost the consumer, and how they’ll keep from locking legitimate users out of accounts, remains to be seen.

Netflix’s April report of subscriber losses — the first in the company’s history — rocked the streaming world and the company’s stock price. While the streaming giant’s numbers are back on the upswing, the anxiety hasn’t gone away. And if a subscription service can’t grow through new subscribers, it has to grow by maximizing its current subscriber pool: Netflix also announced that it had plans to crack down on password sharing.

Netflix has spent 2022 experimenting with ways to discourage password sharing in markets outside North America. In countries like Peru, Costa Rica, and Chile, when the service suspects a user is not the primary account owner, it prompts them to enter a verification code sent to the primary account owner that is valid for 15 minutes. Account owners can pay an additional monthly fee to do away with the prompts.

Netflix has also created infrastructure to transfer profiles between accounts, so that if primary users don’t want to shell out a “sharing fee,” password sharers can can bring their watch lists and recommendations over to their own subscription — potentially a cheaper subscription tier powered by advertisements, once anathema to the Netflix experience.

“Executives have discussed charging account sharers in the U.S. a sum that is only slightly below the cost of its $6.99 ad-supported plan, according to people familiar with the situation,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “That could encourage password borrowers to sign up for their own subscription — and have full control over the account — rather than asking the account owner to pay a sharing fee.”

But don’t pull out your wallet or start migrating your account just yet. Netflix hasn’t officially announced how the shared account crackdown will be implemented in the US, or exactly when (even if it sounds like it’s coming quite soon). According to the Wall Street Journal, the company is also struggling to prevent itself from falsely flagging some accounts. Customers could be inadvertently punished, for instance, for logging in to Netflix at a hotel while traveling; using the family account at college; or just splitting the kids’ account between two different parents’ houses.

All that’s certain is that being a Netflix freeloader is gonna get a lot more annoying very soon.

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