If you rely on someone else’s password to stream cable TV, your freeloading days could be coming to an end.
Bloomberg reported Wednesday that some cable providers are fed up with people sharing passwords to get free streaming, and a “crackdown” on password free-for-alls is coming soon. Password sharing could be costing TV companies billions of dollars and millions of subscribers, the report said.
Tom Rutledge, CEO for Charter Communications (which sells Spectrum cable), said he knew of one subscriber who had 30,000 streams playing simultaneously on one account.
“There’s lots of extra streams, there’s lots of extra passwords, there’s lots of people who could get free service,” Rutledge said.
There’s not a consensus from content providers on how to deal with the shared password problem—or if it’s a problem at all.
To reduce the number of people who share streaming accounts, Charter Communications is reportedly requesting that Viacom (which operates channels including Comedy Central and MTV) decrease the number of simultaneous streams accounts can have. The company also wants uses to log in to their accounts more frequently, Bloomberg reported.
ESPN already reduced the number of simultaneous streams allowed on its app from 10 to five, and they could be cutting it down to three. Justin Connolly, an ESPN executive vice president, called password sharing “piracy.”
“It’s people consuming something they haven’t paid for,” Connolly said. “The more the practice is viewed with a shrug, the more it creates a dynamic where people believe it’s acceptable. And it’s not.”
Meanwhile, HBO spokesperson Jeff Cusson told Bloomberg that password sharing “is still relatively small and we are seeing no economic impact on our business.”
A research firm called Parks Associates found that about one-third of internet users stream cable content without paying for it by using credentials of someone who lives outside their household, according to Bloomberg. The firm estimates that password sharing could cost the TV industry $9.9 billion by 2021, up from $3.5 billion in losses this year.
Content providers can only speculate whether cumbersome login requests and other efforts to reduce password sharing would discourage paying customers from handing out their credentials—or cost their business altogether.
And even if the freeloaders lose their free access to cable TV, who knows if they would actually decide to pay for it?
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