The modern American family is held together as much by shared streaming passwords as it is by love. Many first calls from college are prompted by a blank Netflix login screen, and every additional personal account represents someone who knows the secret word, one our most prized shibboleths. Netflix knows we love those people, even when they live in other households, and it’s now trying to puzzle out exactly how many more dollars per month we love them.
In a new blog post, the streaming giant announced that it would test new multiple-household password-sharing fees in three markets: Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru. Of course, they didn’t use the word ‘fee,’ but that’s what you’re left with once you’ve translated from the original corporate gobbledygook: “We’ve been working on ways to enable members who share outside their household to do so easily and securely,” they wrote, “while also paying a bit more.”
According to Netflix’s current terms of service, a user’s account “may not be shared with individuals beyond your household.” But there’s no penalty for doing so, and while Netflix has long hoped to prompt those freeloaders into buying their own subscription, they’re worried that an aggressive change will lead to mass cancellations.
“We’ll test many things, but we would never roll out something that feels like ‘turning the screws’ on people who enjoy the service”, Netflix’s co-founder Reed Hastings said last year. At the time the company experimented with a text prompt: “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.” Those words were accompanied by the option to ‘Verify Later.’ In some countries, that ‘later’ is now.
The new monthly fee is billed as adding an “extra member.” In Costa Rica, for example, where a premium Netflix account costs $15.99, adding an extra member will run you an additional $2.99. And unless the test countries show a big blowback, it’s a good bet that a similarly-sized fee could soon be standard worldwide.
In the meantime, Netflix would also like more money now. The company raised its prices for new subscribers in January and has been gradually upping costs for existing customers.