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Disney+ may be next to crack down on password sharing

Disney+ may be next to crack down on password sharing

Hello and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the games and media industry. This Thursday, we take a closer look at a recent Disney+ investigation into password sharing, and what it might mean for the company’s view on the issue. Also: NewFronts, new numbers. And: CNN+ will never die!

Is Disney+ next to crack down on password sharing?

Following Netflix’s announcement that it wants to monetize the long-tolerated practice of people sharing their passwords, it looks like Disney+ may be getting ready to do the same.

Disney recently sent out a questionnaire to subscribers in Spain, and ask them why they share their Disney+ passwords with people outside their own household. The survey was first posted on Twitter, and then written up by Spanish tech news site Genbeta. A Disney spokesperson declined to comment.

  • The research suggests a number of possible reasons for password sharing, including that people accessing the shared account don’t use Disney+ enough to pay for their own subscription, and the perhaps all-too-obvious answer: “They don’t want to pay.”
  • The long list of possible answers suggests that Disney is aware that there could be a variety of reasons, including altruism (“They can’t pay for the service and I want to help them”), mutual sharing (“I change usernames and passwords to get access to other services”) and water cooler envy (“I want them to have access to the content so I can talk about it afterwards”).
  • Interestingly, the survey also includes a few less desirable responses, including “I don’t care that they have access to my information,” which could be seen as a way to make people aware of potential privacy issues.
  • Another answer suggests that some password sharers may have been tricked into giving out their credentials by a third-party site.

Disney has not prioritized password sharing in the past. Executives told reporters when Disney+ launched that they trusted consumers to do the right thing.

  • Password sharing hasn’t come up much for the company since, in part because Disney+ is still growing rapidly: The streaming service added 35 million new paying members in 2021.
  • Disney is not alone in its wait-and-see approach. Nor has the topic been at the forefront of HBO Max, which together with its old cable sibling HBO added almost 14 million subscribers in 2021.
  • AT&T CEO John Stankey recently said the service didn’t need to crack down on sharing because it already monitored how many people shared each account. We’ll have to wait and see if things change now that HBO Max is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.
  • Password sharing is a real problem for many of these services: A recent Kagan Consumer Insights survey had 11% of people who watch Netflix admit they do so on a shared account.
  • The real number may be higher than these self-reported confessions: Netflix recently estimated that 100 million households engage in password sharing.
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How the industry reacts to this can be decisive. Simply blocking streams from non-home IP addresses can cause a massive backlash, potentially increasing churn.

  • Netflix wants to try a less punitive approach. Instead of targeting the freeloaders, the company will reach out to people who share their paid accounts, asking them to pay a little more to keep friends and distant relatives connected — think family plan, but for streaming across multiple households.
  • This might actually work: A third of all streaming subscribers would be willing to pay a little more to share their passwords with others, according to a recent Morning Consult survey.
  • Disney’s research suggests that the company may be thinking along the same lines about the problem. If your motivation for sharing your streaming password is your desire to help others, or even just geek out with them about the same shows, you might be willing to pay a few more dollars a month to do so.

— Janko Roettgers

NewFronts by the numbers

This week marked the beginning of NewFronts and Upfronts season, when TV networks and their new media counterparts pitch their respective channels and shows to advertisers. It’s one of those rare times you get to see celebrities and ad tech geeks sharing the same stage, and it’s also a good time to take stock of an industry in flux. Here are some of the data points, both shared on and on the sidelines of the NewFronts, that stood out this week.

  • Advertisers are expected to spend 49.2 billion on digital video, according to a new IAB report. $21.2 billion of this is predicted to go to connected TV advertising.
  • Samsung’s free TV+ streaming service is growing like crazy. The number of TV+ viewers almost doubled year-on-year, and viewers watched three times as much content as a year ago. Samsung told us in 2020 that it streamed “billions of minutes” via TV+ each month.
  • Roku now has more than 61 million active accounts. The company’s Roku Channel streaming service has become one of the five most used channels on the platform.
  • Tubi adds 100 originals to its library this year, shows how investment in originals for free services is growing, albeit far below the kind of money subscription services are spending. The Fox-owned free streaming service just renewed its “Freak Brothers” adaptation, and will also add original content from TMZ.
  • Pluto TV now has nearly 68 million monthly active users. Paramount revealed this tidbit as part of its earnings report this week, which also showed notable growth for its paid Paramount+ service (39.6 million subscribers, up from 16.5 million a year ago).
  • Consumers bought 8.5 million over-the-air antennas last year. It turns out that streaming isn’t the only part of the TV world that’s booming: Scripps Networks shared some data with Protocol this week that shows growing interest in TV-over-the-air, with 50 million households expected to use antennas by 2025 .
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— Janko Roettgers


100% of C-suite employees surveyed by Workplace by Meta said front-line workers were a strategic priority for their business in 2022, but nearly two-thirds of them said retaining front-line workers, who bear the brunt of workplace stress most acutely, had only become a priority since the pandemic hit.

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In other news

Bungie voices support for Roe v. Wade. The Destiny developer voiced public support for reproductive rights in light of this week’s leaked Supreme Court ruling, making it the only game maker of its size to do so across the industry.

Wordle brought tens of millions to the New York Times. The acquisition of the popular pun appears to have paid off for the newspaper.

The Intel boss says that the chip shortage is far from over. The PlayStation 5 could continue to elude buyers until at least 2024, according to comments made by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger in an interview with CNBC.

SoundCloud acquires AI music startup. Musiio’s machine learning technology is meant to help SoundCloud “identify talent and trends before anyone else,” the company said.

Reggie Fils-Aimé addresses Nintendo contractor controversy. During a press tour for his new book, the former Nintendo president answered questions about Nintendo’s treatment of contractors following an NLRB complaint against the company. “This is not the Nintendo I left,” Fils-Aimé told The Washington Post.

Roku is reportedly looking to buy a stake in Starz. The streaming company is said to be partnering with Apollo Global to buy a 20% stake, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Facebook pulls the plug on podcasts. The social network will remove podcasts from its website and apps next month. Maybe it’s not so easy to beat Apple and Spotify after all.

YouTube is shutting down its YouTube Go app. Is the era of lightweight app options for budget phones officially over?

CNN+ will never die

CNN+ went offline a week ago, but don’t expect people to stop talking about it anytime soon. Take Trevor Noah, for example, who used a good portion of his speech to White House correspondents to roast the service. This included the suggestion that celebrity chef José Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen nonprofit organization has distributed meals to people in need around the world, should sit at the CNN table if he was scouting a new disaster zone.

I know what you’re thinking: We shouldn’t make fun of journalists who lose their jobs, and I really feel bad for anyone involved in a venture that never got a chance to prove itself. Somehow that memo didn’t get to CNN, which this week — and it’s no joke — announced it would sell CNN+ “moments” as NFTs. To which media writer Evan DeSimone black: “Well, it’s definitely a limited supply…

— Janko Roettgers


Companies are beginning to turn to communication tools in the workplace. Such tools enable frontline workers to feel more connected to the rest of their business, raise concerns and provide feedback on potential pain points or areas for improvement. By bridging this divide, companies can unlock new savings and efficiencies, and build a business that can last for a long time.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to [email protected] Enjoy the day, see you tomorrow.

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