Charter appears to be making progress in its crusade against people who share their cable TV logins with others. As part of a new carriage agreement between Charter (which operates the Spectrum brand) and Disney, the two companies say they’ll “work together to implement business rules and techniques to address such issues as unauthorized access and password sharing.”
The news release doesn’t get into details, but sources told Bloomberg in 2017 that Charter has been pushing programmers to offer fewer simultaneous streams and requiring customers to reenter their account credentials more often. According to that same report, Disney had already cut simultaneous streams from 10 to five in the ESPN app and had been considering further limits to just three streams at a time.
Two years later, Spectrum continues to argue that password sharing is a major issue for the TV industry, likening it to piracy. The problem is that it’s hard to restrict without inconveniencing legitimate customers, and tighter streaming limits may not even do much to discourage sharers. In February, a survey by CordCutting.com found that 16.5% of Hulu viewers were using a login from someone else, even though Hulu only allows one stream at a time for its on-demand service. Netflix, which allows two simultaneous streams on its most popular plan, had a smaller percentage of moochers at 15%.
Besides, not all companies are as zealous about password sharing as Spectrum. “Password sharing is something you have to learn to live with,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in 2016, adding that “legitimate” sharing between family members was hard to distinguish from a password that floats around more broadly.