Why is Netflix cracking down on password sharing?
Netflix didn’t always have a problem with subscribers sharing their passwords. As recently as 2016, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called the practice a “positive thing” because so many password sharers eventually got their own accounts. To be clear, Hastings wasn’t actually encouraging password sharing, but he didn’t seem interested in a crackdown, either, noting that account sharing “really hasn’t been a problem.”
Of course, Hastings’ 2016 comments came in the context of explosive subscriber growth for Netflix. By early 2022, that growth had stalled, with Netflix reporting that its subscriber base had shrunk for the first time in a decade. Password sharing was partly to blame, the company said.
While Netflix hasn’t quantified how much revenue it may have lost from password sharers, a Los Angeles Times report estimates the practice may have cost streamer and pay-TV operators up to $9.1 billion in 2019, a figure that could balloon to $12.5 billion by 2024.
The streaming landscape has also changed dramatically in the past few years. Back in 2016, Hastings could afford to be cavalier about password sharing because the streamer faced little in the way of serious competition. Today, it’s up against the likes of Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock, and Apple TV+.
With all the big players fighting tooth-and-nail over new subscribers, streamers like Netflix aren’t giving password sharers a free pass anymore.