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Netflix launches account and password sharing crackdown in US and UK

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Netflix is launching its long-threatened password sharing crackdown in the UK.

The company is writing to members who are sharing Netflix accounts and telling them that they will no longer be permitted to do so.

Instead, they will be encouraged to “transfer a profile” so that users can have their own standalone accounts, or “buy an extra member”, which will let people who don’t live in a household be added for £4.99 a month.

“Your Netflix account is for you and the people you live with – your household,” the email sent to problem accounts reads. The message will only be sent to those suspected of currently sharing their accounts.

Netflix has not revealed exactly how it is tracking those it believes to be sharing passwords with people outside their households. But it says that it is watching for telling “account activity”, based on IP addresses and devices IDs, which might for instance indicate that an account is being used in two very different places at once.

It stressed that the crackdown will not apply to those who are using their account for travelling. “You can easily watch Netflix on the go and when you travel – either on your personal devices or a TV at a hotel or holiday home,” the email reads.

Users who are affected are encouraged to go to Netflix’s help centre. But the email also offers a variety of ways to deal with the problems.

First, users are encouraged to “control how your account is used” by checking who is currently accessing their account. Netflix has a web page that will show what devices are currently logged into an account, and that same page can be used to kick them out of an account – after which the company encourages changing the password so that any old devices cannot log back in.

If those people sharing an account are doing so with permission, however, Netflix is offering a variety of options. The transfer a profile tool will mean that users can set up a new, separate account but keep their watch history and other details, or the “buy an extra member” tool essentially lets someone outside the home have permission to share an account for less than the price of a full membership.

Netflix has been gradually rolling out its password sharing crackdown across the world, beginning in Latin America and since expanding to other regions including Spain and Portugal. It has not said how it is deciding which countries are chosen to be hit by the new crackdown.

The move is one of a range of changes from Netflix as it attempts to deal with slowing rates of subscriber growth that have led it to look for new ways to boost profitability. It has said that it believes some 100 million people around the world are using other people’s Netflix accounts – and that encouraging at least some of those to sign up could deal with those falling rates of signups.

In its results call in April, Netflix said that early tests had shown that the crackdown was successful in encouraging people to sign up for their own accounts. While customers initially cancelled their accounts in response to the news, membership and revenue then rose after that as people started paying for their own logins, said co-chief executive Greg Peters.

He also noted then that testing had revealed some problems with the crackdowns, including users complaining that they were being targeted when they were using the app on the go or while on holiday. Netflix had updated the technology underpinning the new rules in response to those complaints, he said – and it was those improvements that had given it confidence to launch the crackdown more broadly.