A full 36% of subscribers to premium streaming services like HBO NOW share their log-in with others.
It makes sense for the phenomenon to be so widespread: after all, why would two roommates or family members or even good friends have separate video streaming accounts when they can share a subscription? But, this 'mooching' phenomenon can eat into subscriber growth and profit.
The password-sharing number, from a USA Today poll, dovetails with a recent survey from Parks Associates that found such credential-sharing costs over-the-top (OTT) providers $500 million in revenue this year.
Parks found that 6% of US broadband households use an OTT video service that is paid by a person living outside of the household, but that number increases among millennials: 20% of OTT users aged 18-24 use an OTT video service paid by someone outside the home, the highest of any age group. Only 10% of OTT subscribers 25-34 admit to this behaviour.
But across the board, few respondents expressed guilt or embarrassment over using someone else's video service credentials.
HBO CEO Richard Pleper made news in January 2014 when he essentially said that it doesn't bother the premium network at all that subscribers are sharing their passwords with non-account holders for the HBO GO service, which is the network's TV Everywhere offering giving access to on-demand content on mobile and digital devices.
"It's not that we're unmindful of it, it just has no impact on the business," Pleper said.
Because HBO GO is an add-on to an existing household TV subscription, which is always tied to a cable, satellite or IPTV package, GO is not a money-maker for the channel. It's been used as more of a customer loyalty tool. SO for HBO, it's the equivalent of giving out free samples at Costco.
That changes though with HBO NOW, which is the network's standalone service.
Glenn Hower, research analyst at Parks Associates, commented: "Credential-sharing has a measurable impact on video services, particularly in the OTT video service area, where young subscribers are active. The impact on OTT video revenues is especially troublesome as OTT providers are investing large sums of money to boost their original content offerings."