(ATF) Netflix, the streaming entertainment platform that has been one of the big winners of the coronavirus pandemic, is moving to stop password sharing as it tries to expand user number growth.
Some Netflix users who were apparently tapping into other people's accounts turned to Twitter to share news of an apparent crackdown along with posts of a notice telling them they need to be subscribers to keep watching the service.
Netflix has introduced a verification system for users across multiple countries that displays a warning: "If you don't live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching."
The company included an offer to try the service free for 30 days, according to a copy posted on Twitter. The new prompt was first reported by GammaWire.
The pandemic - with many workers stuck at home due to quarantine, movement restrictions, or closed schools - has forced millions worldwide to the internet for entertainment from streaming television to online video game play.
By the end of last year, Netflix passed 200 million paid subscribers worldwide for the first time.
Its Nasdaq-listed shares were down 1% to $518.02 at the close on March 12.
Netflix reported fourth-quarter 2020 revenues of $6.64 billion, a 21.5% increase year-on-year, but average revenue per membership was flat.
The streaming giant added 8.51 million paid subscribers globally for a total of 203.66 million, up 21.9% from the year-ago quarter and beating management’s expectation of 201.15 million paid subscribers.
In Asia, 25.49 million digital streaming subscribers pay for a Netflix membership., accounting for 12.5% of global subscribers and growing.
"Netflix is attracting users from emerging economies too," said Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown in London. "Netflix has a strong competitive position when it comes to local language content, which could prove a vital asset."
The crackdown has already been dubbed by social media wags as the "bandemic".
Nearly a third of subscribers to television streaming services such as Netflix share their passwords with people who don't live with them, according to a survey last year by consulting firm Magid.
The practice has long been tolerated by Netflix, which has assumed a greater role in society since the pandemic began.
"Netflix is now a necessity, rather than a luxury, for many of us," said Lund-Yates. "Couples with nothing else to do on date night, and parents with young eyes to occupy have no doubt leant heavily on the service."
With reporting by Agence France-Presse