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Disney starts cracking down on password sharing of streaming services

Hulu has also implemented a secondary login step in an attempt to curb freeloaders in the United States.

Hulu has also implemented a secondary login step in an attempt to curb freeloaders in the United States.

The home screen of the Walt Disney Company's flagship streaming televisions ervice Disney Plus.
The home screen of the Walt Disney Company’s flagship streaming televisions ervice Disney Plus. (Image courtesy the Walt Disney Company, Graphic by The Desk)

The Walt Disney Company has quietly updated its subscriber agreement in one territory to specify that its cornerstone streaming service Disney Plus may only be used by members of an immediate household.

The agreement, rolling out to subscribers in Canada, is the first step of what is expected to be a broader crackdown on password sharing that will see freeloaders booted from Disney’s streaming services unless they pay for their own subscription.

Similar efforts are under way at other streaming services — notably, Netflix — as major media companies seek a return on their multi-billion dollar content and marketing investments. Netflix began cracking down on password-sharing between paying customers and freeloaders in Latin America, a move that saw a slight bump in cancellations.

Disney has slowly increased the price of its streaming services around the world, which also include general entertainment platform Hulu and sports-centric ESPN Plus in the United States. Last month, Disney CEO Bob Iger affirmed the company was exploring ways to prevent freeloaders from using its services.

“We are actively exploring ways to address account sharing and the best options for paying subscribers to share their accounts with friends and family,” Iger said during an August 9 conference call with investors and reporters. “Later this year, we will begin to update our subscriber agreements with additional terms on our sharing policies, and we will roll out tactics to drive monetization sometime in 2024.”

The first part of that promise has held true in Canada, where subscribers are now being told that their subscription is limited to their immediate household, which is defined as “the collection of devices associated with your primary personal residence.”

Disney Plus will still allow Canadian subscribers to add individual profiles for spouses, children, other family members and roommates, but Disney expects all users taking advantage of a single subscription to live at the same residential address.

The company left open the possibility of charging Disney Plus subscribers if they want to share their subscription with those outside of their immediate household — possibly to give parents the opportunity to continue sharing their plan with children who have gone off to college, for example, or to extend their subscription to a vacation home or timeshare.

A similar update to the customer agreement is expected in the United States and other territories through next year. Domestically, Disney has already started implementing new technology measures that are aimed at kicking freeloaders off their services.

Shortly after Iger’s call, Hulu quietly rolled out an update to their service that requires logins to be confirmed with a six-digit code that is emailed to the primary account holder of a subscription. The new measure was first implemented for subscribers of Hulu with Live TV and Hulu’s commercial-free premium plan, according to a person familiar with the strategy, and has eventually rolled out to those on Hulu’s cheaper, ad-inclusive tier.

That same measure is expected to come to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus in the United States over the coming weeks, the source said, and Disney will update its subscriber agreements accordingly.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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