7 FEB 2024

On the Netflix and Disney+ path: more companies join the anti-password sharing trend

According to a recently published report by the consulting firm Horowitz, one-third of US viewers either borrow login credentials or share the costs of at least one streaming service. Six out of ten viewers have no ethical qualms when sharing passwords.


Horowitz published the report "State of Media, Entertainment, and Tech: Disruptions." The work describes a scenario where, on the one hand, an increasing number of streaming services, such as Hulu, are adopting measures similar to Netflix and Disney+'s crackdowns on password sharing, while on the other hand, one-third of U.S. TV content viewers either borrow login credentials or share the costs of at least one streaming service they can access.

The main drivers to borrow/share are "Someone I know already had an account," "I can't afford it at this time," and "I am just doing it to access a specific show/type of content for a short period of time." Almost one in four (23%) viewers who currently borrow or share a password are "very worried" that the streaming services they use will start implementing measures to prevent sharing; another 26% are somewhat worried about it. That said, about half of those who borrow the login or share the cost for Netflix, Max, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Paramount+ would be willing to pay the full price for those services if they were not able to share anymore. Sharers of smaller, less robust services are less likely to pay full price for those services.

What about ethical considerations? There is a significant difference among viewers regarding whether the password is shared with family members or not. Three in ten consumers believe that password sharing is unethical in any circumstance, whereas almost 6 in 10 consumers do not see an issue with it. Among those who are okay with password sharing to some degree, over 4 in 10 (42%) feel it is acceptable as long as it involves sharing with their family members, even if they do not live in the same household. A smaller percentage of consumers (16%) think password sharing is acceptable with everyone, including individuals who are not family members.

The youth are the ones who share passwords the most and have the least ethical issues about it. By far, 18-34 year-olds are much more likely than their older counterparts to password share (54%, compared to 37% among 35-49 year-olds and 17% among 50+ year-olds). They are also the least likely to have ethical concerns about it: Only 13% of those 18-34 think it is unethical, compared to 24% among 35-49 and 41% of 50+ TV content viewers. Younger viewers are also more likely to believe it is okay to share passwords even with people who are not family members.

Adriana Waterston, EVP and Insights and Strategy Lead for Horowitz Research, commented on the challenges that companies face regarding profitability: "Profitability continues to be a concern in the streaming space, and password sharing clearly plays a role in that. Services will inevitably need to find new revenue sources, whether from subscriptions, ads, or both," noted.

The report tracks the evolving market for new and potentially disruptive technologies that could be game-changers, including over-the-air (OTA) antennas, wireless 5G home internet services, and piracy and password sharing. The survey was conducted in September 2023 among 1531 adults 18+ who have a role in decisions regarding TV and internet services in the home.