Disney+ and Big Cable Team Up to Crack Down on Password Sharing, and Now We're Freaked Out

Illustration for article titled Disney+ and Big Cable Team Up to Crack Down on Password Sharing, and Now Were Freaked Out
Image: Disney

Well, folks, I hate to rain on your streaming services parade, but those of us who are hoping to skirt a Disney+ subscription and instead leach off a buddy’s account may run into some trouble.

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Disney and Charter Communications on Wednesday announced a distribution agreement for programming that falls under the Disney umbrella, including, the companies said, ESPN+, Hulu, and the forthcoming Disney+ streaming service. An interesting bit of information tucked into in the press release, however, was the claim that both have “also agreed to work together on piracy mitigation.”

“The two companies will work together to implement business rules and techniques to address such issues as unauthorized access and password sharing,” the release said.

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Further speaking to this apparent crackdown on password sharing, Tom Montemagno, executive vice president of programming acquisition for Charter, said in a statement that the partnership “will allow Spectrum to continue delivering to its customers popular Disney content, makes possible future distribution by Spectrum of Disney streaming services, and will begin an important collaborative effort to address the significant issue of piracy mitigation.” (Emphasis ours.)

It’s unclear how Disney and Charter plane to prohibit password sharing and “unauthorized access,” or for that matter whether such a system yet exists. As Ars Technica suggested, however, one method might involve both Disney and Charter tracking user IP addresses and essentially cross-checking that information.

Synamedia, a company that, among its other services, aims to curb credentials-sharing, has claimed that it counts Charter and Disney among its customers. In the same January press release in which both companies were named, Synamedia also noted a newly unveiled “security software that combats the rapid rise in account sharing between friends and families, turning it instead into a new revenue-generating opportunity for operators.”

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Neither Charter nor Disney immediately returned a request for comment. However, a spokesperson for Charter told Ars Technica that it didn’t “have details to share at this time.”

Whatever we take away from this news, let it be this: Disney+ is a cop.

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DISCUSSION

Say what you will about Netflix but the official position of Reed Hastings(the CEO) is that more harm than good will come from trying to crack down on password sharing. It comes up in earnings calls and he’s repeatedly said it’s more important to make sure the user experience is good than to implement stronger anti-sharing protections.

Not surprising that a legacy company like Disney would be diametrically opposed to the idea though really. They aren’t concerned about growth above all else like Netflix is, they’re already huge; this is just an additional revenue stream so who cares if it contributes slightly less than it otherwise would have.