Advertisement

The State of the Streaming Industry’s Password-Sharing Crackdowns

Before “One Piece,” there was a whole different kind of Netflix pirate.

In May, Netflix brought its “paid sharing” initiative, the thing we all call its password-sharing crackdown, to the U.S. Members can no longer share their account with family or friends outside of their household — not for free at least.

More from IndieWire

What followed were extra members (the add-ons are literally called Extra Members), brand new subscribers, and additional subscription revenue. What following that was other streaming services jumping on the bandwagon. First, was Disney+, and for good reason.

A recent survey of 3,333 users of streaming guide JustWatch found Disney+ to be the most shared streaming service in the U.S. — almost twice as much as Amazon Prime Video.

See below:

In June, IndieWire conducted a survey of its own, asking several experts to name the streamers most likely to follow in Netflix’s footsteps; Disney+ and Max were the runaway frontrunners.

Netflix

We all know about Netflix’s stance on password sharing, and the crackdown is going quite well.

In the most recently reported quarter, Q3 2023, Netflix posted $8.542 billion in revenue, operating income of $1.916 billion, and net income of $1.677 billion. The extra 8.76 million global paid subscribers added in the quarter sure helped.

Netflix credited its newest monetization initiatives for the strong summer. Most notably, the streamer rolled out its “paid sharing” plan targeting password sharers in the U.S. midway in the second quarter. The third quarter was its first full-quarter opportunity to count the extra cash.

But don’t think for a moment that Netflix is feeling satisfied with its current balance sheet. Senior management told media analysts and reporters the real windfall from paid sharing will come down the road.

Disney

In August, Disney announced a password-sharing crackdown of its own for Disney+.

During the company’s third-quarter 2023 earnings call, CEO Bob Iger stated that work on password sharing will begin next year. He said it’s possible “work will not be completed within the calendar year” and that Disney already has “the technical capabilities to monitor much of this.” Although he didn’t give a specific number of subscribers sharing accounts, he described the total as “significant.”

Weeks earlier, the company began to test password-sharing restrictions in India on Disney+ Hotstar. Previously, the service allowed for 10 different devices to simultaneously log on; under new restrictions, the streamer limits users to four simultaneous devices. In the United States, written policy states Disney+ allows for users to log on via four simultaneous devices, but in practice supports up to 10 devices to log on while using the same account.

Iger on November 8 said he does not expect “meaningful” added revenue from the Disney+ password-sharing crackdown until 2025.

Hulu

A tough one, sort of. On the same morning this story was finished, Hulu officially integrated into the Disney+ app — for subscribers to both services Disney is still in the process of finding out how much (more) it has to pay Comcast for full ownership of Hulu. Disney has already shelled out north of $8 billion — and we won’t even mention how much it paid for Fox’s former stake.

Anyway, for some — the Disney Bundle duo and trio subscribers — the Hulu password-sharing crackdown will at least in part come along with the Disney+ one. Standalone Hulu subscribers (and possibly any bundler who uses Hulu via its own app) may or may not end up in the same boat, though it stands to reason Disney would close any such loophole.

When reached, a spokesperson for Hulu told IndieWire there was “nothing to share on this topic” — not right now.

Only Murders in the Building -- “The Show Must…” - Episode 301 -- Curtain up on Season 3! And Leading Man down! After Ben Glenroy’s collapse on stage, Charles, Oliver & Mabel piece together the show’s first days with a suspicious cast & crew to determine if foul play was involved. Spoiler alert… Loretta (Meryl Streep) and Oliver (Martin Short), shown. (Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)
Meryl Streep and Martin Short in Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building”Courtesy of Patrick Harbron / Hulu

Max

A potential Max password-sharing crackdown is “definitely on the to-do list of things to look at,” Casey Bloys said at a November 2 event unveiling coming HBO and Max programming, as is probably the case at “every streamer.” A source with knowledge of the developing plan told IndieWire that 2024 is the target.

All the streamers are in line behind Netflix for a reason, Bloys continued. Netflix’s “first-mover advantage” gives it “a little more power to crackdown on password-sharing than other streamers,” Bloys explained.

Max is probably a bit closer to Netflix these days thanks to a first-of-its-kind bundle between the two streamers for Verizon myPlan customers.

Peacock

On a potential Peacock crackdown, there is “nothing to share at this point,” a spokesperson told IndieWire. Yes, we heard that quite a lot in various forms.

Present-day Peacock is probably happy with any added exposure it can get. The streaming platform recently crossed 30 million paid subscribers, Comcast President Mike Kavanagh said at a recent investor conference. Compare that with: Netflix (247 million as of September 30, when Peacock had about 28 million subs), Disney+ (nearly 113 million, even without Hotstar), Max (95 million), and…

Paramount+

…(63 million).

On a November 2 earnings call, Paramount Global CFO Naveen Chopra said that “right now” he doesn’t see account sharing “as a major headwind to our growth efforts.”

“Obviously, it’s something that we’ll continue to monitor,” he continued. “And the good news is, I think there’s a template for how we could address that in a value-accretive way.”

Paramount’s Showtime OTT (over-the-top) service had the second-most password sharing, per JustWatch. The standalone Showtime app is not long for this world, so “Billions” password bandits will just have to start stealing Paramount+.

(L-R): Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades, Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades and Toney Goins as Philip Charyn in "Billions"
(L-R): Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades, Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades and Toney Goins as Philip Charyn in “Billions”Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME

AMC Networks

AMC allows its many streaming services to be policed by the password-sharing policies of its many distributors, like Amazon, Roku, Comcast, Charter, etc. Beyond that, it sounds like a free-for-all.

The AMC Networks streamers, which include AMC+, Shudder, Acorn TV, Sundance Now, HIDIVE, and allblk, are pretty small and niche. But ’tis the season, so we’re including them here.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon’s verbiage states that a Prime account can be shared among two adults, four teens, and four children. That’s called an Amazon Household — so you should all live under the same (massive, we guess) roof. The keyword, for now, is “should.”

Prime includes Prime Video, of course, though the bundle service is still primarily viewed at as a way to get fast, free shipping from the online retailer. “Reacher” is just your bonus.

A Prime Video rep did not respond to our request for comment on this story.

Starz

Like AMC Networks, we’ve pretty much just included Starz here as a courtesy, and in its own case to remind readers the “Power” and “Outlander” brand still has not split with the Lionsgate studio.

A Starz rep declined comment on this story.

Apple TV+

Let’s be honest: Apple doesn’t really care if someone borrows a TV+ account, so long as they’re upgrading their iPhone every few years. (Which will get you some more free Apple TV+ each time — it’s the circle of life.)

Of course, that is a very unofficial stance we’ve provided on the company’s behalf. We would love to hear something — anything — from the tech giant, but as per usual an Apple TV+ rep did not respond to our request for comment.

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.