Netflix is cool with you sharing your account

Don't worry about lending your Netflix password. CEO Reed Hastings says sharing entertainment is a good thing.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings (center) says sharing Netflix is "a positive thing, not a negative thing."

Richard Nieva/CNET

Suffering a guilty conscience for borrowing someone's Netflix account? The streaming-video giant says don't worry about it.

"We love people sharing Netflix," CEO Reed Hastings said Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas. "That's a positive thing, not a negative thing."

Hastings' comments come as the growing popularity of video streaming creates a social conundrum for many users of paid digital content services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go. Lots of people do it. At the Emmys in September, host Andy Samberg gave viewers a real HBO Go password.

Others consider it an online faux pas. Some of them worry that sharing passwords violates the terms of service and could be illegal.

Hastings, who earlier in the day also revealed Netflix was now in 130 countries, didn't address broad password swapping, but did say a household sharing an account was fine. A lot of the time, he said, household sharing leads to new customers because kids subscribe on their own as they start to earn income.

Netflix, of course, does try to curb how widely passwords are shared. A standard account that costs $9.99 a month allows users to watch videos on two screens simultaneously. For an additional $2 a month, you can upgrade to four screens.

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No 'nostalgia agenda'

During the presentation, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos discussed how the company picks original shows, which have included some nostalgic hits.

In 2013, Netflix revived "Arrested Development," the beloved-but-canceled sitcom. Then it turned a cult movie, "Wet Hot American Summer," into a series. Now, it's getting set to release a spin-off to the '80s favorite "Full House." The spin-off is appropriately titled "Fuller House."

Sarandos says Netflix has no nostalgia agenda but rather is reacting to "shows that people really show a hardcore affinity for."

Sure, it helps that a known property gets the existing fan base excited. But at the same time, the Web has made older shows available to a wider audience, regardless of age. "The Internet is really redefining what nostalgia is in time and space," he said.

He mentioned that the audience for "Arrested Development" grew from the time it was cancelled on Fox to the time Netflix picked it up.

"For most of those people, it's not nostalgia at all," Sarandos said. "It's their favorite show."