Disney is coming for the streaming password-sharing freeloaders.
Taking a page from Netflix’s playbook, Disney chief Bob Iger announced that the media conglomerate has put a priority on finding ways to convert password-borrowing users into paying customers.
“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 on Disney’s quarterly earnings call Aug. 9. “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.”
Currently, in the subscriber agreements for Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, the only mention of password-sharing is that customers may not “share your login credentials with third parties.” Right now, they don’t specifically address whether it’s OK to let friends or family members who don’t live in the same household use the accounts.
Meanwhile, Disney also announced price hikes for the standalone premium tiers of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ in the U.S. Effective Oct. 1, Disney+ Premium (with no ads) will go up $3, to $13.99/month; Hulu without ads will also increase by $3 to $17.99/month; and ESPN+ will increase by one dollar, to $10.99/month.
Netflix in mid-May rolled out its paid-sharing program in more than 100 countries, aimed at pushing illicit password-borrowers to get their own account or having customers add non-household users as an “extra member.” For the second quarter, Netflix added 5.9 million subscribers — more than double the most bullish analyst forecasts. “We’re seeing that it’s working,” Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters said on the streamer’s earnings interview. “We’re positive in terms of both revenue and subscribers relative to pre-launch in all of our regions.”
Iger, responding to an analyst’s question about how widespread the issue of password sharing is for Disney+ and its other service, declined to get into specifics. “I’m not going to give you a specific number, except to say that it’s significant,” h said. “What we don’t know, of course, is as we get to work on this, how much of the password sharing as we basically eliminate it will convert to growth in subs. Obviously, we believe there will be some, but we’re not speculating.”
Iger continued, “What we are saying, though, is that in calendar ’24, we’re going to get at this issue. And so while it is likely you’ll see some impact in calendar ’24, it’s possible that we won’t be complete or the work will not be completed within the calendar year. But we certainly have established this as a real priority. And we actually think that there’s an opportunity here to help us grow our business.”
For the three months ended July 1, Disney+’s subscriber count inched up by 800,000, an increase of 1% sequentially to 105.7 million (excluding Disney+ Hotstar, which saw subs drop 24% after Disney lost IPL cricket rights). In the U.S. and Canada, Disney+ shed about 300,000 customers to stand at 46.0 million. Hulu added 300,000 in the period to reach 44.0 million, and ESPN+ was roughly flat at 25.2 million.