MAY 23, 2024 / Netflix

Netflix is cracking down on account password sharing: Here’s what you need to know

Streaming services are big business, offering up massive catalogues of TV, movies, and sports to Australians. Despite challenges, most notably from Disney+, Netflix is still king of the hill when it comes to the streaming services that more Australians pick than any other, with an estimated 6 million active subscribers watching everything from Bridgerton to Cobra Kai and plenty more.

However, that estimated 6 million figure is probably closer to 10 million or more actual viewers. That’s not just counting the fact that you might have more than one person in your home watching Netflix, though.

For a long while, Netflix has (more or less) turned a bit of a blind eye to folks sharing their Netflix account login with friends and family who might not live in the same household. Some folks refer to it as the “brother-in-law” principle, where you split the cost of a streaming subscription with a family member or friend and you both get to watch.

Netflix supports multiple account IDs on a single account, so the fact that you’re obsessed with military sci-fi movies doesn’t need to affect the recommendations of your brother-in-law, whose tastes might lean more towards classical drama.

The reality here is that this kind of account sharing does run contrary to Netflix’s terms and conditions, and it’s not alone here. Any given streaming subscription will typically only grant you access within the one household.

There’s not too much doubt that while account sharing may have allowed Netflix to grow to the scale that it’s achieved, it’s also losing out on streaming money if too many people do share accounts. In the past it has dabbled very lightly with running account sharing checks if it thought users were being naughty. That was usually done by forcing you to verify via a secondary mechanism like an SMS to your phone if it thought you weren’t the primary account holder, or similar mechanisms.

It appears that Netflix is getting rather more serious about the whole issue of account sharing, trialling a system in a selection of countries that it calls Netflix Extra Member.

What is the Netflix Extra Member service?

It’s basically Netflix’s way of admitting that, yes, people do share Netflix passwords without explicitly blocking them for doing so.

Technically within its terms and conditions it could withdraw service, but instead it’s trialling a secondary pricing tier that will effectively legitimise the practice.

How much does Netflix Extra Member cost?

In its trial phase, Netflix is only rolling out the Extra Member service in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, ahead of a presumed wider launch that will certainly encompass Australia if it goes ahead.

In those countries, each Netflix Extra Member account will cost 2,380 CLP in Chile, 2.99 USD in Costa Rica, and 7.9 PEN in Peru.

You’re probably not au fait with the exchange rate of South American currencies, to be totally frank neither am I, but they equate out to around $4 in Australian money, presuming Netflix keeps to that pricing.

How does that compare to regular Netflix pricing?

The Extra Member pricing – which, to be clear, must sit on top of a regular Netflix account – is actually substantially cheaper than a full subscription. Right now, Netflix in Australia will cost you $10.99 a month for the Basic tier, $16.99/month for Standard $22.99/month for Premium.

$4 each to add as many friends as I want? Bargain!

$4 is indeed way cheaper than a monthly Netflix subscription for sure, but there’s a couple of catches to be aware of. First off, you can only add two extra members to any one Netflix account, not as many as you’d like forever and ever.

They’re also tied to your account, not their own, and that has implications if you decide to cancel or pause your Netflix subscription. They can’t just keep on subscribing for their $4/month price, although Netflix says it is developing tools to allow Extra Member accounts to transition to full paid accounts.

If Netflix decided that Extra Member in Australia was going to cost more, it might make more sense for your brother in-law to get their own standard account, which could also have multiple users underneath it. The Extra Member account is in the singular grammar form, because it only allows one extra user account per payment.

If it’s not trialling in Australia, why do I need to care?

While it’s a trial, it’s clear that Netflix is serious about cracking down on account sharing across the globe. If it does proceed with Extra Member as its way of dealing with account sharing, it’s got the scope to roll it out globally quite rapidly.

I don’t share my account, but I do use Netflix outside my home – will I get hit with extra charges?

You probably shouldn’t – or at least you’d have clear grounds to complain to Netflix if they sent you a message indicating that they wanted extra cash for an Extra Member that doesn’t exist.

Netflix offers a variety of ways to watch outside your home, including apps for tablets and mobile devices and offline modes that let you download titles so that you can watch selected titles even if you don’t have an Internet connection for a while.

The difference here is that most folks typically won’t be using those connections for weeks at a time. You might check into a hotel and use its Wi-Fi to quickly stream an episode of Squid Game, but then you move on. That’s going to show a very different pattern of use than somebody logging in all the time every evening from the same location.

Will other streaming services follow suit?

Right now, the same essential rules apply to most subscription streaming services, whether your tastes run to Disney+, Stan, Foxtel, or many of the other services you can hook up. None of them have particularly indicated that they’re looking to add this kind of feature, but there’s no doubt that they’ll look on with interest at how Netflix goes with this plan.

If it works for Netflix, it doesn’t take too much crystal ball gazing to suggest that they might also offer it in the future.

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Alex Kidman
A multi-award winning journalist, Alex has written about consumer technology for over 20 years. He has written and edited for virtually every Australian tech publication including Gizmodo, CNET, PC Magazine, Kotaku and more.