TV Answer Man, I am in a large family with not so large means. We don’t have much money so I share my Netflix password with my brother and sister and my Mom. Now I read that Netflix is going to charge us for that? Is that possible? Can you help me? — Ellie, Corsicana, Texas. 

Ellie, for years, Netflix has looked the other way when subscribers share their user names and password with others, usually family members. The streaming giant has suggested that the practice allows non-subscribers to sample its service which in turn often leads to them subscribing for themselves.

However, with Netflix’s subscriber growth declining due to higher prices and increased competition from well-heeled services such as HBO Max and Disney+, the company has acknowledged several times in the last year or so that it may take a fresh look at password sharing.

And earlier this month, it became clear that Netflix is doing more than looking at it. The company said it’s begun a test in Chile, Peru and Costa Rica where subscribers are encouraged to pay extra if they share their passwords.

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“We’ve been working on ways to enable members who share outside their household to do so easily and securely, while also paying a bit more,” Netflix said in a post on its site. “And over the next few weeks, we’ll launch and test two new features for our members in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru.”

The new features allow subscribers to add accounts for up to two people they do not live with a small increase to their monthly fee. In addition, the test permits subscribers to transfer profile information to a new account. (If they don’t pay the extra fee, Netflix presumably would block the use of the service outside the original subscriber’s IP, Internet Protocol, address, although that may be more difficult than it seems.)

But Netflix emphasizes that the password sharing fee will not be assessed in the United States — or anywhere else besides Chile, Costa Rica and Peru — until it analyzed its impact via the test.

“We recognize that people have many entertainment choices, so we want to ensure any new features are flexible and useful for members, whose subscriptions fund all our great TV and films. We’ll be working to understand the utility of these two features for members in these three countries before making changes anywhere else in the world,” Netflix says.

So, Ellie, you’re safe for now. But don’t be surprised if Netflix implements the password sharing fee in this country before year’s end. The company needs more capital to produce original content and it likely can no longer afford free subscriptions.

Hope that makes sense. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann