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Disney+ may be next to crack down on password sharing

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we’re taking a closer look at a recent Disney+ survey on password sharing, and what it may mean for the company’s take on the problem. 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, asking them why they are sharing their Disney+ passwords with people outside of their own household. The survey was first posted to Twitter, and subsequently written up by the Spanish tech news site Genbeta. A Disney spokesperson declined to comment.

  • The survey suggests a number of possible reasons for password sharing, including that the people accessing the shared account aren’t using Disney+ enough to shell out money for their own subscription, and the perhaps all-too-obvious answer: “They do not want to pay.”
  • The lengthy list of possible answers suggests Disney is aware there may be a variety of reasons, including altruism (“They can’t pay for the service and I want to help them”), reciprocal sharing (“I exchange my user name and password to access other services”) and watercooler 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 answers, including “I do not 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 some password sharers may have gotten tricked to give out their credentials by a third-party website.

Disney hasn’t made password sharing a priority in the past. Executives told reporters when Disney+ launched that they trusted consumers to do the right thing.

  • Password sharing hasn’t come up a whole lot for the company since, in part because Disney+ is still growing fast: The streaming service added 35 million new paying members in 2021.
  • Disney is not alone with its wait-and-see approach. The topic also hasn’t been on the forefront for HBO Max, which together with its legacy cable sibling HBO added nearly 14 million subscribers in 2021.
  • AT&T CEO John Stankey recently said that the service didn’t need to crack down on sharing because it was already monitoring how many people were sharing 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 issue for many of these services: A recent Kagan Consumer Insights survey had 11% of people watching Netflix admitting they were doing so on a shared account.
  • The real number may be higher than these self-reported confessions: Netflix recently estimated that 100 million households are participating in password sharing.

How the industry responds to this could be crucial. Simply blocking streams from out-of-home IP addresses could lead to a massive backlash, and potentially increase churn.

  • Netflix wants to try a less punitive approach. Instead of targeting the freeloaders, the company will reach out to folks who are sharing their paid accounts, and ask them to pay a little more in order to keep their 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 bit more in order to share their passwords with others, according to a recent Morning Consult survey.
  • Disney’s survey suggests that the company may be thinking along the same lines about the problem. If the motivation for sharing your streaming password is your desire to help out others, or even just to geek out with them about the same shows, then you may be willing to pay a couple more dollars a month to do so.

— Janko Roettgers

NewFronts by the numbers

This week marked the beginning of the NewFronts and Upfronts season, when TV networks and their new media counterparts are talking up their respective channels and shows to advertisers. It’s one of those rare times when 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 transition. Here are some of the data points, both shared at 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 that is forecasted to go towards connected TV advertising.
  • Samsung’s free TV+ streaming service is growing like crazy. The number of TV+ viewers nearly doubled year-over-year, with viewers watching three times as much content as a year ago. Samsung told us in 2020 that it was streaming “billions of minutes” via TV+ every 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 its platform.
  • Tubi is adding 100 originals to its library this year, demonstrating how investments in originals for free services are growing, albeit far below the kind of money subscription services like Netflix 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. Turns out 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 over-the-air broadcast television, with 50 million households expected to use antennas by 2025.

— Janko Roettgers


100% of C-suite staff surveyed by Workplace by Meta said that frontline workers were a strategic priority for their business in 2022, but nearly two in three of them said that keeping their frontline staff, who bear the brunt of the stresses of the workplace 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 opinion, making it the only game-maker of its size to do so across the entire industry.

Wordle brought tens of millions to the New York Times. The acquisition of the popular word game seems to have paid off for the newspaper.

Intel CEO says the chip shortage is far from over. The PlayStation 5 might continue eluding buyers until at least 2024, according to comments from Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger in an interview with CNBC.

SoundCloud acquires AI music startup. Musiio’s machine-learning technology is supposed to help SoundCloud “identify talent and trends ahead of anybody 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 a NLRB complaint against the company. “This isn’t the Nintendo I left,” Fils-Aimé told The Washington Post.

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

Facebook is pulling the plug on podcasts. The social network will remove podcasts from its site and apps next month. Maybe beating Apple and Spotify isn’t that easy after all.

YouTube is sunsetting its YouTube Go app. Is the era of lightweight app alternatives for low-end 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 chunk of his White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech to roast the service. This included the suggestion that celebrity chef José Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen nonprofit has been doling out meals to people in need around the world, should sit at the CNN table if he was looking for a new disaster zone.

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

— Janko Roettgers


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

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to entertainment@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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