YouTube TV reportedly starting its own password-sharing crackdown — or is this just a bug?

Youtube TV app on Apple TV home screen
(Image credit: Future)

Earlier this month, reports of a YouTube TV password-sharing crackdown emerged. The timing felt very ominous, with Netflix expanding its own campaign the previous month. But YouTube's claimed it's something different.

The first report of this crackdown came from Cord Cutters News, which cited "a growing number of people" who "reported their friends and family have woken up to error messages on YouTube TV." The service apparently told them to "buy their own YouTube TV subscription or return to their home location to continue using YouTube TV."

That same article, and folks reporting issues online, reference a 90-day window for using YoUTube TV outside of your primary location. Interestingly enough, YouTube TV's made a response online that suggests this might not be a crackdown.

Over on the r/YouTubeTV subreddit, redditor u/jaydogn wrote "Trying to watch TV, the account that subscribes to YouTube tv is fine, but all other accounts in the family are being asked to sign up. Anyone else have this problem?" 

And YouTube's own account actually responded, writing "Just wanted to give an update — engineering is aware of this & is currently looking into how to fix it." That account also offered a temporary solution: "If you remove the family member & re-add them then they should be able to login again."

This reply, plus the lack of any official statement from YouTube TV about account sharing, makes it seem like nothing's actually certain about a potential password-sharing crackdown.

Analysis: Waiting on the account-sharing apocalypse

That said, this all happened while YouTube TV (one of the best cable TV alternatives) was talking about how it's monitoring how many devices are on the same account. YouTube TV will offer simultaneous NFL Sunday Ticket streams at home, and it's stated "you and your household will still have access to 2 additional streams" for when you leave the house. 

All this comes after Netflix's password-sharing crackdown flew overhead and into the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Reports suggest that Netflix's plan is going well in its early days, and it's not hard to imagine that other rivals will enact similar fights against subscribers using their accounts on more devices than they want. 

We even have a little anecdotal evidence about how Netflix's password-sharing crackdown works, as it pushed one of our team to finally buy their own account.

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.