Do you feel like a rogue bandit every time you log in to a friend’s streaming account? If you do, you probably shouldn’t feel that way. Streaming services don’t care about account sharing.
Streaming websites don’t want to give their service away for free. They just don’t punish users for account sharing, and they usually enable the practice by allowing multi-device simultaneous streaming. In fact, some streaming services have figured out how to capitalize off of account sharing and quietly encourage it.
Netflix doesn’t care about account sharing, even though an estimated twenty-four million people use an account that they don’t pay for. And while you’d assume that twenty-four million moochers would hurt Netflix’s profits, that isn’t necessarily the case.
In the words of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the company is “doing fine as is,” in spite of account sharers. And, because of “legitimate password sharing, like you sharing with your spouse,” the phenomena is just something Netflix has to “learn to live with.”
It seems Netflix has learned to “live with” account sharing by encouraging it, rather than trying to squash it. The website’s “profiles” feature makes account sharing super convenient, and four-screen “Premium” subscription plans, which cost an extra $7 a month, provide Netflix with an extra $100 million or more per year.
While Netflix is relatively lax about account sharing, Hulu takes a more conservative approach. The website doesn’t explicitly state that it has multi-screen plans during the signup process, but both the “Basic” and the “Ad-Free” plans can stream to two devices simultaneously. This gives family members the ability to share a plan without encouraging illegitimate or excessive account sharing.
But don’t worry, Hulu knows that account sharing is a thing, and it makes a ridiculous amount of money from the phenomena.
If you don’t already know, Hulu offers a “Hulu + Live TV” plan. This plan costs $45 a month ($51 for no ads), and it’s basically a cheap cable package that you can stream to any device. Like cable, this plan has optional add-ons, like HBO subscriptions, DVR upgrades, and the mythical Unlimited Screens add-on.