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Netflix is rolling back the ability for users to share passwords

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Here's a sound that may soon be a memory for millions of people.

(SOUNDBITE OF NETFLIX STARTUP SOUND)

SUMMERS: Netflix plans to end password sharing, and as NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, many fans feel betrayed.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: It's going to be like that scene in Netflix's "Stranger Things" when the heroes are trying to break into a top-secret facility.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STRANGER THINGS")

DAVID HARBOUR: (As Jim Hopper) Give me the code.

ULABY: Your Netflix code, or password, is going to fail.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STRANGER THINGS")

HARBOUR: (As Jim Hopper) The code is wrong.

ULABY: There will be havoc. There will be recriminatory phone calls.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STRANGER THINGS")

BRETT GELMAN: (As Murray Bauman) I suppose it could be wrong.

HARBOUR: (As Jim Hopper) How could it be wrong?

GELMAN: (As Murray Bauman) The code is a number, a famous number.

ULABY: But the only number that matters to Netflix is 100 million people. That's how many of us around the world are not paying but watching Netflix anyway. Among them are three people beloved by Michael O'Connor of Ireland. He shares his Netflix password with his mom, his sister and his partner.

MICHAEL O'CONNOR: My first response was, I'm probably going to cancel my account.

ULABY: O'Connor was already irritated with Netflix. First, he says, it's way more expensive than the other streamers if you're paying for the ad-free tiers. Second, Netflix has a habit of canceling his favorite shows.

O'CONNOR: "The OA," "Warrior Nun" - oh, "The Dark Crystal" was really - it's really bad business.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) I see many endings lain before us.

ULABY: Previous password sharers will set up their own accounts, predicts Steven Cahall. He's an analyst for Wells Fargo Securities. The pool, he says, of brand-new subscribers has shrunk. And remember; this is not easy for Netflix, either.

STEVEN CAHALL: Streaming services actually don't love to crack down on password sharing. They like people engaging with the content.

ULABY: He says, try to see things from the point of view of Netflix and their shareholders.

CAHALL: What they have to be worried about is a challenging ad market, a rising cost of capital, the decline of pay TV, the rising costs of sports, the slowdown of streaming and a writer's strike.

ULABY: Do not be shocked, Cahall says, if other streaming services follow suit. But we may be losing something culturally meaningful, says Jessica Halem. She's 51 with a good job, but she uses her parents' password for HBO - I mean, sorry, Max.

JESSICA HALEM: I do not need their financial support. But there's something about the gift - every time I log in to watch something knowing that my parents are paying for it - there's just something really sweet about it, right?

ULABY: Just ask Carrie Bradshaw.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SEX AND THE CITY")

SARAH JESSICA PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) As soon as I typed in love, there he was.

ULABY: It's not uncommon for people to share passwords with their exes, a little intimacy and access into the life of someone you love. Meanwhile, our Irishman, Michael O'Connor, says the whole situation might drive him back to reading.

O'CONNOR: (Laughter) The books are usually better anyway.

ULABY: And cost nothing to give away. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET'S "UNSQUARE DANCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.