Entertainment

Gowd wants to cash in on people sharing their streaming accounts

Gowd’s CEO claims the service is perfectly legal and doesn’t think Netflix’s upcoming changes will affect his business.

An image of the Netflix homepage

Gowd, which officially launched this week, actively encourages people to share their accounts with strangers, for a fee.

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The debate around account sharing just got a bit more complicated, thanks to a new service that wants to help people make some cash on the side with their unused Netflix profiles.

Gowd, which officially launched this week, bills itself as a marketplace for subscriptions. The service actively encourages people to share their accounts with strangers, for a fee. Doing so can help participants “save or make thousands each year,” Gowd claims.

“Most of us share our various subscription accounts with our friends and family,” said Gowd founder and CEO Vivek Shah. “Why not do the same with people across the globe in a secure and centralized place?”

Gowd works a little bit like eBay, except the only thing people can offer for sale is access to subscription services. The service currently lists dozens of options to subscribe to popular services like Netflix, Spotify and Hulu, with accounts for some streaming services going for as little as $1 a month.

A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment when contacted for this story. Spotify and Hulu didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Most services don’t allow account sharing

Account sharing has long been a subject no one in the entertainment industry was willing to talk about. While services like Netflix were growing, they often tacitly allowed sharing of accounts among friends and family members. The market leader did a 180 earlier this year, announcing it would soon begin to crack down on the estimated 100 million households that watch Netflix without paying for it.

Even before that change in tune, Netflix already advised its subscribers that they weren’t allowed to share their accounts. “The Netflix service and any content accessed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household,” the company states in its terms of use.

Most streaming services have similar language in their fine print, with Spotify even explicitly telling subscribers that the company doesn’t allow any “selling, renting, sublicensing, leasing or other monetization” of its service.

Asked about this, Shah pled ignorance. “We rely on our sellers' knowledge for the listed account’s limitations and restrictions, including the ability to sublicense or resell another’s services, prior to posting,” he told Protocol this week, adding that he wasn’t legally liable for content posted by his users.

The writing may be on the wall for account sharing

Legal questions aside, Gowd may be losing access to accounts from Netflix and other services in the foreseeable future. Netflix executives have told investors they intend to crack down on account sharing globally next year.

At that point, Netflix is expected to tell users who share their accounts that they will have to pay extra, which would effectively negate some of the financial rewards Gowd advertises. Other services have yet to address account sharing as Netflix has, but it’s not hard to imagine competitors following suit if services like Gowd become more widespread.

Shah said such measures wouldn't affect Gowd. “Our marketplace is built for users to share nearly any type of subscription service, from gaming to streaming,” he said. “As a result, we do not focus on any individual company such as the popular streaming services.”

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