Stop, Thieves! Netflix Password 'Sharing' Feels More Like Stealing

The TV Blog claims no particular foothold on the moral high ground, but the idea of stealing from Netflix has never occurred to me.

Although others may differ -- particularly those who avoid subscribing to Netflix by “borrowing” passwords from family and friends -- to me, this practice feels like password stealing, not borrowing or “sharing.”

Does this make me unusual? Maybe or maybe not. Late last year, when it first floated the idea of cracking down on password sharing in 2023, Netflix said as many as 100 million users worldwide were doing it for free by borrowing passwords from paid subscribers in their social circle.

Netflix said earlier this year that Q1 global subscribership now stands at 232.5 million. Based on that figure, 100 million is a hefty number. What does it mean in terms of lost subscription revenue? Or can that even be determined?



The TV Blog is not equipped to figure this out, although a place to start might be to multiply 100 million by the basic monthly price for a Netflix subscription -- $9.99.

This would yield a total of $9.99 billion in potentially lost subscription revenue. However, there are so many variables that this cannot possibly be accurate, right?

Whatever the true figure is (if there is one), Netflix clearly has a financial incentive to mitigate the password-sharing practice or put a stop to it completely. 

This effort started last week with an email to subscribers. It almost seems superfluous to share the contents of this email here because readers of this TV Blog probably also received it (except those who are “sharing” someone else’s password).

“Hi Adam,” said the one I received. “Your Netflix account is for you and the people you live with -- your household.

“You can easily watch Netflix on the go and when you travel -- either on your personal devices or a TV at a hotel or vacation home.

“If you want to share Netflix with someone outside of your household, you can use these features: 

Transfer a profile. [Boldface theirs]. Anyone on your account can transfer a profile to a new membership that they pay for.

Buy an extra member. You can share your Netflix account with someone who doesn’t live with you for $7.99 [per] month more.”

Here at home, we also had to verify our account when we went on Netflix at some point during the past week. This was easy to do and we were back on.

OK then, Netflix. Good luck with all that. But what continues to fascinate me is the way so many people took up the sharing practice when it smacks of stealing Netflix for free.

Let’s apply the old cable TV model. Many of us can remember the era when it was fairly common to steal cable TV without subscribing.

People trafficked in used or stolen cable boxes that people would buy and connect themselves to cable for free.

And in other instances, particularly in densely populated cities such as New York, people would actually splice into cable TV wires that ran up and down the outside walls of apartment houses and walk-ups to essentially siphon off cable TV for their own free use.

Unlike this cable TV thievery, using someone else’s Netflix password does not seem to be something that is done on the sly. 

In other words, friends and family are providing their passwords willingly to their loved ones. Thus, the subscribers are in on the scheme as much as the password borrowers.

I first heard of the practice a couple of years ago when an acquaintance and I were discussing a show or movie then playing on HBO Max and I may have told him that I was not yet a subscriber.

And then he blithely informed me that he wasn’t either. When I asked him how he saw the show if he did not subscribe, he answered, just as blithely, “Oh, I just use my friend’s password.”

Isn’t this wrong? The TV Blog claims no qualifications as some sort of ethicist, but using something for free that is supposed to be paid for doesn’t feel like sharing or borrowing. It feels like stealing.

Photo courtesy of Netflix: Arnold Schwarzenegger in the new action drama “FUBAR.” In its debut week last week, the show was the No. 1 ranked English-language drama on Netflix with 88.94 million hours of viewership, Netflix said.

2 comments about "Stop, Thieves! Netflix Password 'Sharing' Feels More Like Stealing".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, June 2, 2023 at 3:18 p.m.

    The last remaining Blockbuster store ran an ad recently saying, You can rent from us and share the DVD with anybody you want, as long as you bring it back on time.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, June 2, 2023 at 6:36 p.m.

    Adam, why did you focus on a preiod of 10 months for 'potentially lost subscription revenue'?

    100,000,000 * $9.99 = $999,000,000 which is $999 million.  

Next story loading loading..