- Netflix will start charging for password sharing by the end of March, according to the company.
- Other services like HBO Max have traditionally struck a different tone on sharing.
- Netflix expects to see increased revenue after the rollout, according to a letter to shareholders.
While Netflix prepares to end free password sharing, other streaming companies have avoided taking a hard stance on the matter.
The company is making good on its promise to stop users from accessing the service without paying for their own account, announcing Wednesday it will soon roll out a paid-sharing model. Netflix has already rolled out a similar program in some South American countries, allowing users to pay $2 or $3 dollars to add a member to their accounts.
Notably, password sharing is against the terms of service of virtually every streaming service, and a federal court ruling in 2016 upheld a conviction of password theft under a 1980s anti-hacking law. Still, services like HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Hulu each have their own methods for preventing — or allowing — users to share their accounts.
Here’s a look at the current state of password streaming among the major streamers.
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While the streaming industry navigates password sharing, attempting to strike a balance between usability and profit, some experts have said policies like the one coming to Netflix can be hostile.
“A password crackdown across the industry would lead to more volatility because people will swing to the content that they want,” consultant Stephen Beck told Marketing Brew in an Interview. “They won’t stick around on that service for the periods of time when the content is not fresh and not interesting.”
While Netflix anticipates the new policy may lead to cancellation, it said in a letter to shareholders last week it anticipates an overall increase in revenue.
“We expect to see some cancel reaction in each market as we roll out paid sharing, which impacts near term member growth,” the letter reads. “But as borrower households begin to activate their own standalone accounts and extra member accounts are added, we expect to see improved overall revenue.”
HBO Max largely struck an indifferent tone around password sharing before WarnerMedia, which owned the service, merged with Discovery last spring.
Executives at AT&T, which formerly owned WarnerMedia, indicated that HBO Max has been able to manage password sharing effectively without a large-scale crackdown, Deadline reported.
However, a new life is on the horizon for the streaming service, as HBO Max prepares to merge with Discovery+ this spring, creating a new streaming service set to launch this summer, Insider’s Travis Clark reported in August.
It’s unclear how the new service might handle password sharing after it launches, but for now HBO Max users seem to have no trouble borrowing passwords from one another.
Hulu has typically allowed password sharing to continue on most accounts, but access to live TV can be restricted for some users sharing passwords. Users on accounts with access to live TV must intermittently login at the home where the account is based in order to continue access to live programming, according to the company’s website.
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Amazon takes a slightly more friendly approach to password sharing in some instances, offering households the ability to merge accounts and add users for free. Amazon Prime members can share some of their benefits, including access to Prime Video, with other members in their household.
The Amazon Household feature, however, restricts access to a max of two “adults,” four “teens,” and four “children.” Adults are defined as users over the age of 18, and teens range ages 13-17, according to Amazon.
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Apple TV+ has a Family Sharing feature which allows account holders to share video access with up to six users for free. The streaming account must be linked directly with an Apple ID, and the account holder is responsible for any purchases made by members with access, according to Apple.
Apple TV+ users can also invite users with different Apple IDs to join their “family,” granting them access to the service.