You want to see a big fat made-up number?
$9.1 billion–a number so stupidly large you can’t possibly imagine it as anything more than a figure on your screen–is how much streaming giants are said to be losing (per Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge) due to password sharing. The horror! How can the folks running Disney+ and Netflix feed their families when hemorrhaging so much money? I know that getting drunk and buying Dungeon Degenerates made me rethink buying frozen shrimp for dinner this week, so if someone walked up and told me that I just had $9.1 billion stolen from me thanks to freeloaders, I would be in a bit of a predicament.
Streaming services don’t seem quite so upset as the dire circumstances that Rutledge paints when he spouts nonsense phrases like “creating havoc in the ecosystem” to I guess make rampant password sharing sound akin to what’s currently happening in Australia, though.
No, as it stands Netflix and its ilk aren’t worried about all that profit swirling down the toilet, but another suit (Jean-Marc Racine, chief product officer of video delivery and security firm Synamedia) warns us, “When the growth starts to flatten and you start to look at the balance sheet, you are going to be looking for revenue.” Then, these services will have no choice (because they always have to be making eternally more profit forever and ever amen) but to clamp down on sickos willing to watch Hulu off their parents’ account even though they live in a different state. These monsters will be told to HBO GO get their own subscriptions, and will dutifully comply, showering the services with billions in fresh revenue.
And what fun new methods will companies devise to make sure users pay up or face the digital wrath? This year’s Consumer Electronics Show is demonstrating how a cottage industry is popping up to profit off the alleged problem. Technology showcased can identify accounts used by pirates and password sharers and either offer a discount for a sharer to pony up and pay for their own account or (more likely) a threat that the account will be shut down if the users don’t cut out their despicable practice.
This is only going to get worse for the destitute streamers as time goes on, as well, with this fake-ass number said to balloon to $12.5 billion (gasp!) by 2024. Of course, this all operates under the entirely and absolutely 100% false assumption that each password sharer is a lost customer. That’s not how piracy works, as people who use a service for free do so because they don’t intend to pay. What services like Netflix lose is insignificant–especially compared to the marketing they’re offered by illicit users who bolster the numbers they boast to investors and the media every year. If they block out people riding on their friends’ and families’ coattails from viewing their content, then that’s just how many less eyes they’ll have on the flashy new project they’re using to justify the billions in debt they’re racking up. Then, Netflix will be in the tricky position of trying to explain to the money men why its next Irishman had millions less streams in its first weekend than before. Investor dollars are the only ones that really count in this game, so it’s best for all involved to keep the symbiotic password sharing relationship as is.
That is, unless they want people running to free streaming services instead.