from the you-made-this dept
Streaming video providers like HBO and Netflix have traditionally taken a lax approach to password sharing. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has gone so far as to say he “loves” password sharing, and sees it as little more than free advertising. Execs at HBO have similarly viewed password sharing in such a fashion, saying it doesn’t hurt their business. If anything, it results in folks signing up for their own accounts after they get hooked on your product, something you’ll often see with kids who leave home, or leave college and college friends behind.
The traditional cable industry sees things quite differently. Executives at the nation’s second-largest cable company (Spectrum), for example, have called the lax attitudes toward password sharing “insane,” and have frequently (and falsely) claimed that the practice is akin to “piracy.” In response they’ve been trying to build a new coalition tasked with taking aim at what they see as a diabolical menace.
A new service being launched this week should provide some fuel for those endeavors. DoNotPay is a startup that revels in helping consumers take counter-advantage of US corporations’ automated customer service systems, offering users services like a fast-food receipt scanner that will automatically fill out surveys for free food, an automated system for securing refunds for crappy WiFi, or a service that lets you auto-contest parking tickets. Their latest offering is Chrome extension that lets users share their streaming service access without actually sharing your password:
One can already hear the hyperventilation and histrionics coming from the cable sector, who’ll be sure to be write a few legal nastygrams to the company for its latest end-around of automated systems. But the company is simply responding to a growing problem among streaming services we’ve highlighted repeatedly: as companies strive to lock down content into a growing array of exclusivity silos, consumers are finding it harder and harder to find all the content they’re looking for, and afford the number of services needed to do so. As such, they’re more likely than ever to revert to piracy or embrace a service like this one:
“Joshua Browder, DoNotPay?s founder and CEO, says the subscription sharing feature is a response to the proliferation of streaming services that each have their own exclusive content silos.
?It?s ridiculous,? Browder says. ?You shouldn?t have to pay $100 a month just to access what you could get before for much cheaper.?
So while the cable and streaming industry will freak out about this service, they probably won’t spend too much time realizing that they’re the ones responsible for it. To be clear, this isn’t some apocalypse, and, in many ways, streaming has fixed a lot of what’s wrong with the traditional cable sector, delivering greater flexibility at lower cost.
That said, endlessly confusing and ever-shifting licensing agreements, combined with the rise of more than two-dozen streaming exclusivity silos, is still a problem the industry should be paying attention to:
So The Office is leaving Netflix in 2021 to go to an NBC streaming service…. pic.twitter.com/TdVgxfvsgk
— Jamie (@Jamie_2455) June 26, 2019
Right now, the industry’s just running to the streaming trough without thinking much of the impact. Eventually however they’ll have to do a better job building more centralized systems with a focus on cost and simplicity, without simply repeating the historical failures of the cable sector.