A third of subscribers to Netflix in the United States share their login details with others, according to recent consumer research, although another survey suggests it could be as much as a half of subscriptions. Netflix, which has about 74 million subscribers in the United States and Canada, has apparently regarded account sharing as a useful form of promotion, but is looking into ways to encourage free riders to get their own subscription.

A nationally representative online survey of over 4,000 adults in the United States found that 83% have at least one of the popular online video subscription services, including 67% of all homes that reported having Netflix.

The research found that 33% of Netflix services are used in more than one household.

15% of Netflix services are used and paid for by those that also share them with someone outside the household.

15% are used in one household but are borrowed from another household that is paying for the service.

3% are used by multiple households that share costs.

The findings are presented in the fifth annual report on Internet-Delivered Pay-TV Services from Leichtman Research Group. They are based on an online survey conducted in February 2022.

Account sharing is not confined to Netflix. The survey found that 29% of all direct to consumer online video services are shared with others outside the household. In the case of multichannel online video services, the survey found that 23% of subscriptions are shared by multiple households, including 7% fully paid for by someone outside the household.

“Password sharing is an inherent feature of most streaming services. Sharing helps to expand the user base and retain customers, but it also creates a gap between the number of households that have a service and actual paying subscribers,” said Bruce Leichtman of LRG.

Another recent survey, of over 10,000 adults in the United States, conducted by the Adveritisng Research Foundation, found that almost half of Netflix subscribers share their account details with someone living outside their home.

A Netflix account is intended only to be used by people who live together in a single household, although that is a rather leaky definition. The company uses information including internet addresses, device identifiers and account activity to monitor usage but has so far taken a rather relaxed attitude to over sharing.

That may change as the growth in paid Netflix subscriptions has begun to flatten off in North America.

Netflix is planning a test in Latin America that will allow members to add up to two sub accounts for an additional monthly fee if they want to add users outside their household.