Because Netflix and other streaming services are more amorphous and unmoored than traditional hard-wired cable and other forms of media, it’s become common to share passwords and other login information with friends and family. That may be changing, as streaming platforms appear poised to permanently claim a majority share of watchers and listeners.
Most popular streaming services have built password-sharing hurdles into their platforms, and they can always add more as users become more siloed and reliant on individual companies. In this ever-changing environment, maybe you’re wondering if you should even share streaming accounts at all. Might you run into technical or legal problems down the line? We’ve taken a detailed look at the major streaming services to help you figure out those answers.
How to share Netflix with other people
Each of the four Netflix plans gives you access to a certain number of concurrent streams. Both Basic plans (with and without ads) let you watch on one screen at a time, the mid-tier Standard plan ups that to two, and the most expensive, 4K- and 8K-ready Premium plan lets you watch on four screens at once.
You can set up multiple profiles (perhaps for you and your kids) inside a single account, and although Netflix itself once tweeted “Love is sharing a password,” the streaming service has begun shrinking the circle of people it allows you to “love.” Still, you’re fine to pass on your details to a handful of people, as long as you stick to the simultaneous streaming limits and make it work within the platform’s rules and regulations.
If you’re worried about recent headlines that suggested Netflix would block any device that didn’t log in from the account’s primary location at least once every 31 days, don’t be—at least not yet. The company later told The Verge that those rules were posted accidentally and only meant to apply to three countries where it has been testing account sharing restrictions: Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru.
Can you share HBO Max?
If you’re thinking of sharing HBO Max logins to watch The Last of Us, you need to know it’s something the streaming service doesn’t encourage. Dig deep enough into the HBO Max support pages, and you’ll see that your HBO Max password “should not be shared with anyone outside your household.” It’s not clear what the company means by “household,” but it does say your account can have up to five profiles for kids and adults.
HBO Max also says simultaneous streams are “limited,” without specifying what the maximum number of streams actually is—perhaps you could try to find out by loading up additional streams on your account until you get an error message.
When to share Hulu account details
Like Netflix, Hulu lets you set up multiple profiles within a single account for all the members of your family. It’s more restrictive when it comes to simultaneous streams, though: the standard plans only allow concurrent viewing on a maximum of two screens.
But if you’re paying extra for Hulu Live TV, you can pay another $10 a month for the Unlimited Screens add-on, which lets you watch simultaneously on as many devices as you like. But even with this service, you’re limited to five screens at once for the HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime channels.
Hulu’s subscriber agreement only mentions sharing passwords to make it clear that you’re responsible for everything that happens on your account. So if you do share your account information, you do so at your own risk.
How to share Disney Plus
How to share Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is, as the name suggests, part of the Amazon Prime package. You can share this streaming service with one other adult, up to four teenagers, and up to four children within a single Amazon Household. Everyone doesn’t have to live at the same address, either, just the same country or region is fine. Each Amazon account within a household has a three-stream limit for simultaneous Prime Video streams, and you can’t watch the same video on more than two devices at once.
Beyond that household, though, sharing your personal Prime Video login credentials with someone else will give them access to much more than TV shows and movies. They’ll also be able to shop for stuff on Amazon, get at files in your Amazon cloud storage, read your e-books, and so on. Ultimately, unless you’re setting up an Amazon Household, it’s probably not worth the risk to share your Prime Video password.
How to share YouTube TV
YouTube TV just has the one $65-per-month plan, and that gives you the ability to share YouTube TV with up to five other people at no extra charge. This is part of the same family group sharing you get with Google Drive and other Google services: everyone logs in with a different Gmail address, but can access some of the same shared services.
[Related: How to secure your Google account]
Set up a family group, and all six members can each access up to three streams at once. The catch is that Google asks that you and any members of your family group sign in within your designated home area (defined by ZIP code) at least once every three months to keep your subscription active.
Sharing a YouTube TV account with someone outside your family group is much riskier than sharing a Netflix or Hulu login. Because each YouTube TV account is tied to a Google account, someone using your Google login information will also have access to all your other Google apps and services, including Gmail.
Can you share a Spotify account?
Spotify accounts are clearly designed to be used by one person and one person only. You can register as many devices as you like, but you can only listen to your tunes on one at a time. That might cause problems if you’ve passed your login credentials on to friends and family.
Paying for Spotify Premium lets you bundle multiple accounts, with plans for two to six people. Each person gets their own login information, but everyone needs to live at the same address. That means it’s not a great option for sharing among people living in different places.
Naturally, Spotify lets you and members of your family plan listen to your music wherever you go, but it’s presumably applying some background checks to make sure you actually live at the address you’ve specified. Considering sharing your password is specifically prohibited in the Spotify user agreement, a family plan is your best bet for getting other people on your account.
How to share Apple Music
Because an Apple Music subscription is so tightly tied to an Apple ID on specific devices, and that ID gives access to everything else Apple offers (from email to iCloud), it can be risky to share your Apple Music login. Plus, you can only stream Apple Music tracks to one device at a time.
Like Spotify though, Apple Music offers a family plan: up to six people can use the same account for $17 a month. Everyone needs their own Apple ID, but only one person pays for purchases. If you’re a parent, you can restrict what your kids can and can’t do after you’ve added them.
Each family member gets one Apple Music stream, plus their own recommendations, playlists, and more. Apple seems to be less strict than Spotify when it comes to having everyone at the same address, as long as you’re all in the same country, but bear in mind that anyone in your Apple family will only be able to make purchases with your registered card.
This story has been updated. It was originally published on June 22, 2019.