Netflix's global password crackdown is off to a terrible start

An image of a home with five devices showing the Netflix logo on them
Netflix fans have reacted furiously to the company's password crackdown rollout. (Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix has begun to roll out its password crackdown scheme globally – but it's already off to a terrible start.

On May 23, the world's best streaming service – depending on who you ask these days, mind you – confirmed its unpopular password sharing crackdown plan was immediately being introduced to multiple world regions. Countries affected by the worldwide rollout, which comes just over a month after Netflix revealed its password crackdown was really happening, include the US, UK, and Australia.

Netflix users, especially those who have been borrowing someone else's account for free, have had plenty of time to come to terms with the impending rollout. Even so, many subscribers have reacted angrily to the sudden arrival of the Netflix password sharing crackdown plan in their countries, and are cancelling their subscriptions.

A major factor behind the swathe of cancellations is the eye-popping price that users will have to pay to add an extra member – for someone who lives outside of the main account holder's home – to said account.

In a Netflix blog post, the streaming giant revealed that users can share their account with people who don't live with them, as long as they pay an extra $7.99 / £4.99 / $7.99 AUS per month. For context, Netflix's 'Standard with ads' subscription plan costs the same amount of money.

The additional fee also means that those subscribed to Netflix's Premium Tier – which comes with perks including support for four devices, 4K video, and spatial audio – will have to pay almost $30 a month to bolt an extra viewer onto their payment plan.

Implementing a password crackdown plan is bad enough, but forcing people to stump up another fee to allow another person to use your account? Not on our watch, according to numerous Netflix users. In a ResetEra forum thread discussing the global rollout, around 80% of those replying to the announcement (at the time of writing) said they've already cancelled their subscription, or plan to as soon as they've finished watching one of the best Netflix shows they're in the middle of. (Netflix is hoping they'll find something new immediately, of course.)

Things aren't looking much better for Netflix on popular social media apps like Twitter, either. A quick search for "Netflix password sharing", or some variation on that phrase, shows angry users are turning their backs on the streaming service. The same is true on the Netflix Reddit page, too, with several members confirming they're boycotting the platform after years of being a subscriber.

Netflix users, then, are hoping to hit the streaming behemoth where it hurts: from a financial perspective. If enough people cancel their subscriptions, Netflix will be forced to perform a U-turn and allow customers to share their password with anyone they want. After all, as the tweet above shows, sharing is caring, right?

Unfortunately, you shouldn't bet on Netflix bowing to public pressure and pulling the plug on the scheme. During its Q1 2023 earnings presentation, Netflix revealed that, after trialling its password crackdown plan in Latin America, Spain, and Canada, it initially saw a similar backlash from users – i.e. people unsubscribing in their droves. For example, over one million Spanish consumers tore up their Netflix contracts (per Kantar) when the experiment was conducted on the Iberian coast. 

However, after a few weeks, Netflix noticed an uptick in subscribers, with new and returning users signing up for or reactivating their accounts. According to the BBC, Netflix's userbase in Canada is now larger than it was pre-crackdown plan rollout, with the company's revenue streams being bolstered as a result.

If Netflix sees a similar increase in its fanbase and cash reserves over the coming months, then, its decision to crack down on password sharing will be justified. And, with a bunch of exciting new Netflix movies on the way, plus the return of massive hit shows including Stranger Things season 5, Squid Game season 2, and The Witcher season 3 on the way, it'll be confident that users will flock back to its service sooner rather than later.

For the time being, though, you can expect Netflix's global userbase to be smaller when it holds its Q2 2023 earnings call. As well as losing members over its password crackdown plan, Netflix has also lost subscribers who support the ongoing Writer Guild of America (WGA) strike and those angry enough to depart the service over its cancellation of popular series like Lockwood and Co. So, don't be surprised if Netflix's fanbase takes an sizable, albeit temporary, hit in the short to medium term.

For more on Netflix's password crackdown plans, read about why the streamer pre-warned its partners over a downturn in revenue ahead of the global rollout. Alternatively, find out if you should cancel Netflix in the wake of the crackdown.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.