Want to watch “The Queen’s Gambit” or “Lupin”? If you’ve been borrowing a Netflix password from a family member or friend, you may now have to pay up.
Netflix has started testing a feature that could prod users who are borrowing a password from someone outside their household to buy a subscription.
The company said the feature was being tested with a limited number of users. It may signal a broader clampdown on the common practice of sharing passwords among relatives and friends to avoid paying for the popular streaming service.
“The test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so,” the company said in a statement.
began to notice the feature recently when they logged onto a shared Netflix account and saw a message on their screen that read, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”
To continue watching, these users were asked to either verify that it was their account by entering a code that was sent to them by text or email, or join with their own account to Netflix. They also had the option to complete the verification process later.
A basic Netflix subscription, which allows customers to watch on one screen at a time, costs $8.99 a month. Customers who pay more can watch on additional screens simultaneously.
The test also appears to be more of a nudge to buy a subscription than an iron-fisted crackdown. For example, someone who was borrowing a password from a friend or family member could ask for the verification code that had been sent by Netflix.
said in January that it had added 8.5 million customers in the fourth quarter, for a total of 203.6 million paying subscribers by the end of 2020. The company has about 66 million customers in the United States and anticipated adding six million total subscribers in the first three months of this year.
Netflix had earlier hinted that it was looking at ways to stop password sharing. Gregory K. Peters, the company’s chief product officer, said during a call to review the company’s earnings in October 2019 that Netflix was “looking at the situation.”
“We’ll see, again, those consumer-friendly ways to push on the edges of that,” Mr. Peters said, adding that the company had “no big plans to announce at this point.”
Professor Smith said the company clearly loses a significant amount of revenue through people using the service but not paying for it.