Account Sharing and Its Impact on Media Profits: Challenges & Solutions Skip to content

Account Sharing and Its Impact on Media Profits: Challenges & Solutions

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As the race for subscriber growth starts to slow, streaming providers are gradually recognising an entirely new subscriber base, one that’s never before been reported in their quarterly earnings. For media streaming businesses, understanding the full extent of this and formulating effective solutions is no longer a choice – it’s a necessity. Netflix believes that up to another 100 million households might be accessing their service using someone else’s account. At an average subscription rate of $6/month that equates to an additional $7.2B per year in revenue. That’s before you consider the added cost for a streaming service to deliver content to non-subscribers. Furthermore, a Parks Associates study predicts that by 2024, the media industry could face losses upward of $9 billion due to password sharing and piracy

The challenge is differentiating between fans who love your content and want to share it with friends and family, and those bad actors who want to profit from the success of your service. Abruptly changing rules and blocking genuine fans will rustle some feathers. But approaching these fans in a way that is seamless and resonates with their love for what you offer can only  foster stronger relationships with your users. 

It’s time for account sharing and account takeover to be on the agenda of every streaming company’s board meeting.

The Depth of the Hidden Subscribers Issue

Everyone loves sharing great content; whether it’s watching a show together or suggesting it to a friend. In the days of physical media, you might’ve lent a friend a disc for the weekend. Now, you might share your login details, and suddenly, months go by with them still streaming on your account. With multiple devices and simultaneous streaming options, there’s little chance of encountering issues. So, you let it slide. For streaming providers, this poses both a challenge and an opportunity. You gain a new fan, but how do you turn them into a paying subscriber? 

Recent studies have indicated that as much as 36% of millennials share passwords for streaming services, and this figure jumps to a staggering 41% for the younger Gen-Z demographic. This represents a significant chunk of potential revenue left on the table. 

It’s not about casting a wider net for a new audience; it’s about understanding and re-engaging the current one. The treasure is already there, and you have the map in your hands. The avenue to explore isn’t solely in customer acquisition but in optimizing the monetization of the current user base. Leveraging insights from data analytics can help media companies identify these usage patterns and devise strategies to convert these hidden subscribers into paying ones.

Account Takeover: The Dark Abyss Beyond Account Sharing

While sharing account credentials might be just the tip of the iceberg, the larger underlying issue is account takeover. Essentially account takeover is a form of piracy, and is undeniably a form of fraud and cybercrime. Cybercriminals launching credential stuffing attacks aim to profit from your services, disregarding the well-being of the account holders.

Striking the Balance: User Experience and Profitability

The challenge isn’t just to limit unauthorized sharing but to achieve this without pushing away genuine users. No one wants dissatisfied users or negative publicity. The goal is to motivate these fans to willingly subscribe to your service whilst disincentivizing fraudsters from hijacking legitimate accounts.

Opening the Chest: Protect the Treasure

Streaming companies have various data points and tools to monitor account usage. Yet, even the best streaming companies with vast resources face widespread account sharing challenges. It’s evident that innovative solutions are needed to smoothly transition sharers to subscribers and deter fraudsters from compromising legitimate accounts. 

Among the various security and anti-piracy measures, one simple data point often goes unnoticed: the user’s location when accessing the service. Recognizing where a user is during their interaction can be game-changing. For instance, knowing that two devices on the same account have never interacted can offer a basic, yet insightful, filter for potential account sharing or takeover scenarios. 

On the other hand, consider a loyal customer with residences in two locations, spending half the year at each. They have your app on a Smart TV in both places. These TVs never “meet”, but the user watches both and always has their cell phone nearby. Using the phone’s location to validate that the account serves a single household can ensure you don’t inadvertently disrupt the genuine user’s experience, allowing them to continue to enjoy your service.

The Future: Tackling Account Sharing Head On

The evolving digital landscape presents media platforms with multifaceted challenges. Account sharing, while indicative of a platform’s desirability, is a complex issue that intertwines technology, consumer habits, and operational intricacies. 

For media platforms, the dynamic nature of digital consumption means that they must remain agile, adapting strategies not just to identify unauthorized access, but to respond in ways that maintain subscriber trust. Seamless user experience is paramount; disruptions, even if intended for security purposes, can deter genuine subscribers. 

Implementing advanced tools like behavioral analytics and geolocation isn’t merely about flagging potential unauthorized access. It offers media platforms new insights into content consumption patterns. This information, when leveraged effectively, can not only curb account sharing, but guide platforms in enhancing user experience, making them more personalized and engaging. 

In conclusion, while the tools and techniques to combat account sharing will evolve, the underlying principle remains constant: fostering trust and understanding with subscribers. By ensuring a balance between robust security measures and superior user experience, media platforms can navigate the challenges of account sharing and pave the way for future growth.

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