Research: Credential sharing costs millions in revenue

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What has been an effective strategy for OTT video providers to win new subscribers appears to be backfiring, according to research by specialist consulting firm, Cartesian, which reveals that 27 per cent of consumers access streaming video content using account credentials borrowed or stolen from someone they don’t live with.

“In our work with streaming video providers, we make the distinction between credential sharing within the household and outside of it,” says Sam Kornstein, VP of Strategy and Analytics at Cartesian. “These behaviours are seen differently by providers and consumers, and providers increasingly have reason to be concerned.”

Sharing within a household is normally allowed within subscription contracts; but, sharing outside of a household is not. And yet 42 per cent of those who use someone else’s password to access a streaming video service indicate they would be willing to pay for the content if it wasn’t easily accessible.

So why do consumers engage in credential sharing? Over half (56 per cent) of the respondents that use someone else’s credentials to access a streaming video service state they already “pay enough” for content – a worrying figure in the wake of new streaming services entering the market in the US and across the world.

Or rather, is it that streaming video providers make it too easy? In the survey, three out of ten (27 per cent) people use someone else’s credentials say the main reason they do so is because “it’s easy and convenient”. Others say it’s simply because the content they want is not available on services they already pay for.

In the report, How Consumers Access Streaming Video: The Risks of Credential Sharing, Cartesian defines illegitimate credential sharing as “sharing account access details [i.e. user ID and password] with someone outside of the household for which the subscription was purchased”.

The company also categorises the three main types of sharing as 1) Family & Friends, 2) Extended Network, and 3) Theft. Sharing with friends and family often leads to credentials being circulated across an extended network, which in rare cases can then result in theft. In Cartesian’s survey, credential sharers name close friends (29 per cent) and non-household relatives (39 per cent) as sources for account credentials.

In addition to lost revenue, the report outlines other risks associated with uncontrolled credential sharing including higher costs, breaking content licensing agreements, and customer data security breaches. The latter is of increasing concern to companies with the threat of hefty penalties if security measures are found to be lacking.

Cartesian outlines its solution which uses data science, machine learning and behavioural analysis to detect, prevent and stop unwanted credential sharing, while allowing operators to continue to provide a rich customer experience.

“Our streaming video credential sharing and prevention solution uses the full scope of viewing data that streaming video services already collect to identify which accounts are engaged in credential sharing or theft, and to take sensible steps to prevent this behaviour. You need to analyse nuanced patterns to determine whether complex usage behaviors are actually legitimate use or rather credential sharing,” says Kornstein. “We are constantly updating our platform with the latest data science methods to keep our clients ahead.”


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