nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Password sharing not a problem, priority for SVOD providers

Interest in password sharing for various applications

Companies are producing services to combat password sharing, and the press continues to report it as a big problem. However, the data doesn’t support the idea that it is a big problem and SVOD providers are disinterested in doing anything about it.

Service to identify those sharing passwords

At CES 2018, UK company Synamedia announced a new service, dubbed Credentials Sharing Insight (CSI), to help SVOD providers identify customers that are sharing passwords. An SVOD service signs up for the CSI platform and provides its subscriber access data. The platform uses AI and machine learning to analyze the data and determine a probability score that an account holder is sharing their password.

The solution can identify users that are viewing at home and in a vacation home or when an adult child living out of the home is using their parent’s account. It can also identify nefarious operations such as for-profit account-sharing services.

Synamedia suggested that SVOD providers could use the data to upsell customers to premium accounts with more concurrent streams. However, the press suggested Netflix, HBO Now, and others would use it to shut down password sharing among all their subscribers.

New data suggests password sharing rampant

New data from SurveyMonkey and reported by CNET  reinforces the idea that password sharing is a big problem. CNET reports that 71% of a SurveyMonkey audience poll said they would consider sharing a password with a spouse or partner. Further, more than a third said they would quit a streaming service like Netflix or HBO Now that used AI to stop password sharing.

Password sharing is not rampant

A deeper look at the SurveyMonkey data shows that password sharing outside of the family is unusual. The company says 9% of the survey respondents would or have shared a password to an entertainment service like Netflix and HBO.

password sharing Q3 2017The SurveyMonkey result agrees closely with data released by nScreenMedia in 2018. In an IBM survey fielded in Q3 2017, less than 8% of respondents said they share their password with someone outside of the family. 49% say they share within the family and 36% say they do not share their password at all.

According to the IBM data, password sharing seems to be decreasing. In 2016, 11% of survey participants said they used a password to an account for which they did not pay. In 2017, 8% said the same thing. As well, 5% fewer people said they are sharing their password with family members in 2017 than in 2016.

Do SVOD services consider it a problem?

It is not clear how many SVOD providers will be rushing to sign up for Synamedia’s CSI products. Many of the biggest services do not seem concerned about the problem. For example, Richard Plepler, HBO’s CEO, was asked by CNNMoney in 2015 if password sharing was a problem. He had this say:

Richard Plepler HBO“We look at it very carefully, right now password sharing is just simply not a big number. Should it become a big number, we will deal with it. We will change the number of concurrent streams that are available. But right now, the number really isn’t significant.”

Mr. Plepler went even further in 2014. He said that password sharing was a “terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers.”

Netflix has displayed a similar disinterest in reining in password sharing. Reed Hastings, Netflix’ CEO, had this to say about password sharing in later 2016:

“No plans on making any changes there. Password sharing is something you have to learn to live with, because there’s so much legitimate password sharing, like you sharing with your spouse, with your kids …. so, there’s no bright line, and we’re doing fine as is.”

Further, I have called the Netflix support line about covering a relative that lives far from us. The representative told me to share my password. He didn’t even encourage me to upgrade my account to a higher tier with more simultaneous streams (I did that anyway.)

Neither Netflix nor HBO have changed their policies or plans recently to give any hint that they now view password sharing as a problem.

The seeming disinterest of the SVOD community to crack down on password sharing is not good news for Synamedia. It could be that, despite the press hype, providers simply aren’t interested in its CSI product.

Why it matters

The press continues to hype the threat to pay online video services from password sharing.

Companies are producing products to help SVOD providers combat it.

However, data does not show that password sharing outside of families is a big problem.

As well, big SVOD providers seem disinterested in doing anything about it.


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