Password sharing with streaming services is almost as pervasive as the streaming services themselves. A recent survey by Leichtman Research reported that 33% of Netflix users share passwords outside of their household (and that’s just those who admitted it). (1) Streaming providers suspect the problem is even more widespread than they realize. (2) But it’s a problem that streaming services—and their customers—have mixed feelings about.
Up until now, many streaming providers have taken a relaxed approach to cracking down on password sharers. Many argue that it’s worth the brand exposure. (3) But with Netflix recently stepping up its efforts to crack down on account sharing, more streaming providers will surely follow—especially with estimates that account sharing will cost the industry $12.5 billion by 2024.3
What does this mean for you? Are you still safe to share your password outside of your household? Or are you safe to keep using the blessed login that’s been saving you $10 a month for 5 years? We’ll break down the latest developments in password sharing, examine what it says in the fine print for the three biggest streaming providers, and give you tips on how to keep sharing passwords safely.
What is password sharing?
Password sharing in regard to streaming services is when people outside of your immediate household use your streaming login or when you use a login for a streaming provider that isn’t in your name and doesn’t belong to someone in your immediate household.
Up until recently, the lines have been blurry in the fine print about what exactly constitutes someone from your household and someone outside of your household. Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and others want you to be able to watch your subscription anywhere—that’s one of the main perks of streaming.
But how can they distinguish between you watching Netflix from a hotel in Florida that you visit often versus someone in Florida using your login on a regular basis? And where do the household lines stop? For example, are you allowed to share your login with your daughter who’s in college only when she’s living in your house but not when she’s at her dorm?
Streaming providers have historically shied away from these tough questions in the interest of keeping subscribers happy. But as the problem continues to grow, streaming providers are experimenting with novel approaches to nailing the biggest password-sharing culprits. And we could be at the beginning of a streaming world with much less sharing.
Is password sharing illegal?
Pros and cons of password sharing
- Save on monthly streaming subscription costs
- Convenient if you still want access to a streaming provider but don’t watch it often
- Allows you to have access to multiple streaming providers without shouldering the costs
- Can lead to streaming issues if too many people use the account at once
- Exposes you to potential theft and security risk since the sharer has direct access to your account
- Once you share your account credential, it could be shared again without your knowledge, which multiplies your risk
Password sharing on Netflix
Of all the major streaming providers, Netflix has the most detailed instructions for how to share your Netflix account in a compliant way. Netflix makes it very clear: “people who don’t live in your household will need to use their own account to watch Netflix.” If Netflix suspects that a device using your account to access Netflix is outside of your household, they’ll send you a device verification link to either the email or phone number of the primary account holder. If you verify the device as being part of your household, the device can watch Netflix.
Netflix uses a combination of IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity to make the call on whether or not the device needs to be verified. In its current state, Netflix’s verification system seems relatively easy to bypass. And if you stay within the simultaneous streams limit for your plan, it’s likely that you’ll fly under the radar. But, like we said earlier, Netflix has plans to make you pay for devices outside of your household starting in early 2023. (7) It’ll be less than the cost of a full Netflix subscription but it will no longer be free. So, Netflix’s current device verification is likely just the beginning of a more robust system Netflix is creating to rake in the lost bucks on all those shared passwords, so enjoy your free password sharing while you can.
It’s unclear whether Netflix is running device verification with their own proprietary system or if they’re using a third-party service similar to Adobe’s new Primetime Account IQ, which uses machine learning to track password sharing across streaming sites. (8) This service was just launched in 2022, which means it could become much more widespread over the next several years as other streaming providers follow Netflix’s lead when it comes to cracking down on shared passwords.
Password sharing on Disney+
Disney+ is much more vague about password sharing in its subscriber agreement, which you’ll have to sign before you create an account. It states that you must agree not to share your login credentials with a third party, which we assume means someone outside of your household. Per the Disney+ plan, you can stream on four devices simultaneously and create up to seven user profiles. Given that, Disney+ knows that your account won’t be used just for you—and it seems ok with that. But if you do end up sharing your login credentials across multiple households, just know that Disney+ might flag that as suspicious activity and has the right to terminate your account.
Password sharing on Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video device download limits
|Download type||Live streaming device limit||Device download limit for a video|
|Purchased videos||3 videos at one time using the same Amazon account; same video can stream to 2 devices at a time||4 compatible devices|
|Rental videos||3 videos at one time using the same Amazon account; same video can stream to 1 device at a time||1 compatible device|
|Prime and Prime Video Subscriptions||3 videos at one time using the same Amazon account; same video can stream to 2 devices at a time||2 compatible devices|
|Prime Video Mobile Edition||1 video at one time using the same Amazon account on 1 device||1 Android or iOS device|
|Third-party add-on video subscriptions||3 videos at one time using the same Amazon account; same video can stream to 1 device at a time||2 compatible devices|
|Free videos||3 videos at one time using the same Amazon account; same video can stream to 2 devices at a time||Only available for download if you have an Amazon Prime account and restrictions for Prime and Prime Video Subscriptions apply|
|Pay-per-view videos||3 videos at one time using the same Amazon account; same video can stream to 2 devices at a time||No download available. You’ll have access to the video for 24 hours.|
Another thing to note about Amazon Prime Video is that giving someone access to your streaming account will also give them access to your Amazon account (unless you only subscribe to Amazon Prime Video for $14.99 per month and don’t have an Amazon Prime account). Your Amazon Prime account likely contains sensitive payment and address information. Since Amazon Prime Video is considered one of many features that comes with an Amazon account, it’s often lumped into a login that includes other services. If you’re sharing your password with someone who you trust, this could be relatively harmless if all they do is take advantage of your two-day shipping benefits. But if you’re sharing your password with a partner who becomes a vindictive ex-partner, things could get scary fast.
Password sharing on live streaming services
The same password-sharing principles generally apply to live streaming services, but the difference is live streaming services are more proactive about kicking you off if you’re violating the terms. Services like Fubo TV and YouTube TV allow you to stream on up to 3 separate devices—but those devices can’t be three different TVs in three different locations. If you’re trying to use the same login as several other people in different households to watch a major sporting event on your TV, you’ll likely be playing a game of musical chairs for who gets access and when. One second you’ll be watching a major play only to be ejected right before you see how it ends.
If you’re in a different household than the main account holder for the live streaming service you’re using, your best bet is to watch it on your phone or tablet. But take care—many providers want to see that mobile device return to the home base and watch from there occasionally. Otherwise, it will be deemed an out-of-household device.
- Learn more about device restrictions on Fubo TV.
- Learn more about device restrictions on YouTube TV.
- Learn more about device restrictions on Hulu + Live TV plans.
Final take: share streaming passwords cautiously
For the most part, sharing streaming passwords is still very much alive and well, and you can likely share without consequences—at least for the next several months. But there are very real legal liability and personal information risks that come with sharing your account credentials outside of your immediate household. For that reason, we strongly recommend you don’t post your credentials on any public forum or share with anyone you don’t know very well. And on the flip side, you also shouldn’t use credentials that you find on a public forum or get from someone you don’t know.
As machine learning technology continues to progress and streaming providers continue looking for ways to maximize profits, we suspect it’s only a matter of time before all streaming providers make it more difficult to share passwords across households—and Netflix will likely be the first to crack the code on how to do it without losing too many subscribers. In the meantime, do what feels right for you when it comes to sharing your streaming passwords. As long as you fully understand your legal liabilities and only share credentials with people you deeply trust, you’ll probably be fine and save a few bucks each month while you’re at it.
Cara Haynes has been writing and editing about internet service and TV for six years. Previous to contributing to Helpful, she worked on HighSpeedInternet.com and SatelliteInternet.com. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your lifespan.
Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.
Endnotes and sources
- 33% with Netflix share the service,” Leichtman Research Group. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- “Is Netflix password sharing an even bigger problem than people thought?” Forbes. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- “A crackdown on streaming service password-sharing is coming,” Marketing Brew. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- “A court ruled that it could be a federal crime to share your Netflix password,” TechCrunch. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- “Netflix CEO says account sharing is ok,” TechCrunch. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- “Disney+ keeps growing fast. But streaming loses $1.5 billion,” Los Angeles Times. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- “Using someone else's Netflix password? A crackdown is coming in 'early 2023',” Time. Accessed December 7, 2022.
- “Adobe wants to police password sharing on Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max,” Review Geek. Accessed November 15, 2022.