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Netflix CEO Reid Hastings once said that not being too strict about password sharing is often times one of the company's most powerful marketing strategies. Richard Plepler, former CEO of HBO, said something similar as well back in 2014, right as streaming was hitting a rapid growth phase.

While there are soft restrictions on many streaming services, policing is fairly light. The general consensus seems to be that people who borrow streaming service logins often times turn into paying customers.

We wanted to collect and report on data about password sharing, so we ran a survey to find consumers who are currently borrowing the login of at least one streaming service. After filtering over five thousand respondents, we found 1,487 people who self-report that they're currently borrowing someone's password to use one of the major streaming services (for the sake of this poll, we asked about Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO).

 

We asked 1,487 people who they're borrowing a streaming service login from. Below are their responses:

 

Notes of interest:

  • Not surprisingly was seeing that the majority of people who are using someone else's login don't see any moral gray area on the matter. When polled against people who don't borrow passwords, there was no majority and the split was almost even.
  • Most people claim that the person borrowing their account knows, but it's hard to tell what “knows” means. For example, we weren't able to get specifics on was this a “at one point they knew,” versus, “they know I'm currently and actively using their account.”
  • It was interesting to see how many people said they would immediately sign up for the service they're borrowing a password for if they got their login taken away. No doubt password sharing is costing these services millions if not billions of dollars in revenue, but the marketing value is apparently worth it. We don't believe it'd be difficult for Netflix to tighten their security on this, meaning it's probably an intentional choice.

Methodology:

We collected data using third party survey software, with all responses being recorded online during June 2019. Of the 1,487 people who self-reported that they borrow a streaming service password, 50% were male, 46% were female, and 4% chose not to say. Self-reported age spread from 19 to 66 years old.

We asked specifically for examples of password sharing only when the person paying for the account DOES NOT live in the same household. Examples of this include parents and adult children living in the same house, current roommates, or two partners living together.

Sean Porter is a data scientist interested in a great story. He lives with his wife and three (yes three) dogs. On the weekend you can find him in the mountains, either skiing or climbing.