Many of us were taught to share as kids. Now streaming services ranging from Netflix to Amazon to Disney+ want us to stop.
That’s the new edict from the giants of streaming media, who are hoping to discourage the common practice of sharing account passwords without alienating subscribers who’ve grown accustomed to the hack.
Password sharing is estimated to cost streaming services several billion dollars a year in lost revenue. That’s a small problem now for an industry that earns about $120 billion annually, but something it needs to address as spending on distinctive new programming skyrockets. Amazon’s upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series will reportedly cost $450 million for its first season alone – more than four times the cost of a season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
“Frankly the industry has been gravitating toward that. It’s a question of when, not if,” said CFRA analyst Tuna Amobi. “The landscape seems to be pretty set in terms of these new entrants, so it seems like a good time to get a much better handle on subscribers.”
It’s a tricky balance. The video companies have long offered legitimate ways for multiple people to use a service, by creating profiles or by offering tiers of service with different levels of screen sharing allowed. Stricter password sharing rules might spur more people to bite the bullet and pay full price for their own subscription. But a too-tough clampdown could also alienate users and drive them away.
In Marchsome Netflix users began to get popups asking them to verify their account by entering a code sent via email or text, but also gave them the choice of verifying “later.” Netflix did not say how many people were part of the test or if it was only in the U.S. or elsewhere.
“They’ll be taking a very cautious approach to it,” Amobi said. “Handled the wrong way, there’s always a downside to a move like this.”
The test comes at a crucial time for Netflix. Last year’s pandemic-fueled subscriber growth is slowing. It remains the streaming service to beat with more than 200 million subscribers globally. But a bevy of new competitors have emerged, including Disney+, which is cheaper and has quickly snapped up 100 million subscribers in less than two years.
When Disney+ launched in 2019, then CEO Bob Iger said the service was modeled on sharing.
“We’re setting up a service that is very family-friendly, we expect families to be able to consume it – four live streams at a time, for instance,” he said in a CNBC interview. “We’ll watch it carefully with various tools, technology tools, that we have available to us to monitor it. But it’s obviously something we have to watch.”
Roughly two in five online adults have shared passwords to online accounts with friends or family members, according to the Pew Center for Internet and Technology. Among millennials it’s even higher: 56% of online adults ages 18- to 29 have shared passwords.
“With the cost of all the streaming platforms bought together equaling a cable bill — which it was supposed to eliminate — I think it’s a great thing to be able to share your login to help family and friends save a few bucks,” said Ryan Saffell, 39, an IT director from Las Vegas.
Another study found more than a quarter of all video streaming services are used by multiple households. That includes a family or friend sharing the account they pay for outside of the household, or, less commonly, several households splitting the cost. And 16% of all households have at least one service that is fully paid for by someone else according to the study by Leichtman Research Group. That increases to 26% for 18- to 34-year-olds.
Sharing or stealing streaming service passwords cost an estimated $2.5 billion in revenue in 2019 according to the most recent data from research firm Park Associates, and that’s expected to rise to nearly $3.5 billion by 2024.
That may be a small fraction of the $119.69 billion eMarketer predicts people will spend on U.S. video subscriptions this year. But subscriber growth is slowing, and costs are increasing.
Companies are investing dizzying sums to produce own original movies and shows and stand out from competitors. Disney+ said it’ll spend up to $16 billion a year on new content for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ by fiscal 2024. Netflix is expected to spend $19 billion on originals this year, research firm Bankr estimates.
“Programming spend is doubling, or in some cases tripling and quadrupling, so you have to fund it somewhere.” CFRA’s Amobi said. “Most services are looking at losses for the next few years before they break even. So they can use every subscription that they can get.”
Another way to finance all this new programing is to raise prices. Netflix hiked the price of its most popular plan by $1 last October, to $14 a month. Disney+ followed in March with its own $1 a month increase, to $8.
Josh Galassi, a 30-year-old Seattle resident who works in public relations, says everyone he knows shares passwords. If companies start to crack down, he said he would subscribe to the services he uses, but only if the shows he likes are on the service, like “The Good Fight” on Paramount+. He does that with Starz’ “Outlander,” subscribing only when the show is on and then canceling.
“One rule I have is I only share passwords with close friends or family members,” Galassi said. “Or somebody I know that has a service I don’t want to pay for, I’ll ask them if they’re willing to share in exchange for something that I pay for.”
Netflix played down its March user verification test, telling investors it was a continuing effort and nothing new. Company co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings promised not to spring any changes on customers too abruptly.
“We would never roll something out that feels like ‘turning the screws,’” Hastings said in an April call with analysts. “It’s got to feel like it makes sense to consumers that they understand.”
Video Wall at Rolling Loud Stage Collapses Ahead of Festival – NBC4 Washington
A video wall that was set up at a stage for the Rolling Loud music festival collapsed Thursday ahead of the event, but no injuries were reported.
Footage from Chopper 6 showed the scene at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The wall collapsed at around 8:30 a.m.
The crew was working on repairing the wall.
“The show goes on!” said a tweet from the official Rolling Loud account.
Like many other events, Rolling Loud was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally set for May 2020, the event was rescheduled several times. This weekend’s lineup includes A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott and Post Malone.
Family of James Brown Settles 15-Year Battle Over His Estate – NBC4 Washington
The family of entertainer James Brown has reached a settlement ending a 15-year battle over the late singer’s estate, according to an attorney involved in the mediation.
David Black, an attorney representing Brown’s estate, confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that the agreement was reached July 9. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.
Legal wrangling over the Godfather of Soul’s estate has been ongoing since his death at the age of 73 on Christmas Day 2006.
The performer’s death touched off years of bizarre headlines, beginning with Tomi Rae Hynie — a former partner who claimed to be Brown’s wife — being locked out of his 60-acre (24-hectare) estate, while photographers captured her sobbing and shaking its iron gates, begging to be let in.
More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed over the years by people trying to lay claim to what’s left, which courts have estimated to be worth anything from $5 million to more than $100 million.
Brown was renowned for hundreds of iconic musical works including hits like “I Feel Good” and “A Man’s World,” and was known around the world for his flashy performances and dynamic stage presence. But years of drug problems and financial mismanagement caused his estate to dwindle.
Last year, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Hynie had not been legally married to him and therefore did not have a right to his multimillion-dollar estate.
Justices also ordered a circuit court to “promptly proceed with the probate of Brown’s estate in accordance with his estate plan,” which outlined creation of a trust that would use his music royalties to fund educational expenses for children in South Carolina and Georgia.
NBC Quickly Hires Maria Taylor After Her Departure From ESPN – NBC4 Washington
Maria Taylor has joined NBC less than a week after her contract with ESPN expired.
NBC is formally making the announcement during its primetime Olympic show Friday before a replay of the opening ceremony.
Taylor had been with ESPN since 2014 but her contract expired Tuesday. Her last assignment for the network was Tuesday night at the NBA Finals, where she was the pregame and postgame host for the network’s “NBA Countdown” show.
ESPN and Taylor announced Wednesday that they could not agree on a new contract. Her first assignment for NBC will be the Tokyo Olympics.
Taylor had hosted “NBA Countdown” since 2019 as well as being a reporter for “College GameDay” and ABC “Saturday Night Football” since 2017.
ESPN had been discussing a contract with Taylor for over a year but things reached a boiling point over the past month. Taylor rejected an extension last year and the two sides were far apart heading into the NBA Finals. Then came a New York Times report detailing comments her colleague Rachel Nichols made about Taylor last year during the NBA’s restart in Florida.
Nichols, who is white, was introduced in September 2019 as the NBA Finals host but the network later decided to promote Taylor, who is Black.
Nichols said in an accidentally recorded phone call obtained by the Times: “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
Nichols apologized on July 5 while hosting “The Jump.” She was slated to be the sideline reporter for the Finals, but was pulled off the assignment.
Singers From All Continents, Including John Legend and Alejandro Sanz, Perform ‘Imagine’ at Opening Ceremony – NBC4 Washington
Singers from around the world, including John Legend and Keith Urban, performed “Imagine” at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.
The song, co-written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono 50 years ago, played while a giant Earth made of drones rotated above the Olympic stadium. The artists singing hailed from different continents, with Legend representing the Americas, Urban representing Australia, Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz representing Europe, Angelique Kidjo representing Africa and the Junior Chorus representing Asia.
“We’re not the first to say ‘Imagine no countries’ or ‘Give peace a chance,’ but we’re carrying that torch, like the Olympic torch, passing it hand to hand, to each other, to each country, to each generation,” Lennon once said. “And that’s our job.”
While some on social media took issue with the song choice because of the opening line, noting that without countries to compete against each other there may not be an Olympic Games, Ono explained in a Twitter post that the song embodies what she and Lennon believed together at the time, saying “he comes from the West and I come from the East – and still we are together.”
Missed the Opening Ceremony? Watch it on NBC on primetime tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET. On that broadcast, Leslie Odom Jr. will tell the story of the hopes and dreams of Olympians in an opening vignette, Dwayne Johnson will introduce Team USA, and Uma Thurman will narrate a special feature leading into the Parade of Athletes.
‘Jeopardy!’ Host Gig Began ‘Scary,’ Ended Fun – NBC4 Washington
LeVar Burton’s quest to become the new host of “Jeopardy!” has been a confident, upbeat effort by the actor and those who rooted him on with a petition drive.
But when the day came to tape the first of his week’s share of episodes as one of a succession of guest hosts, the show’s pace and the challenge of following in Alex Trebek’s much-admired footsteps threw Burton off stride.
It made for a rough start to the five back-to-back tapings that begin airing Monday, said the veteran actor known for “Roots,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and ”Reading Rainbow.” He turned for advice to wife Stephanie Cozart Burton, who as his makeup artist was on hand to play coach during a production break.
“Being at home, it feels like a really relaxed half-hour, but it’s not relaxed at all,” he said. “You can’t let your focus drop for a nanosecond.”
Burton has been watching and assessing the other guest hosts — in other words, his competition for the position that the Canadian-born Trebek held from 1984 to shortly before his November 2020 death from cancer at age 80. Art Fleming was the quiz’s show’s original and only other host, in the 1960s and ’70s.
Although Burton had made the show’s producers aware of his interest in being considered, his addition to the roster came after a petition backing him as the new “Jeopardy!” host caught fire (with more than 250,000 signatures to date).
He faces other openly eager would-be hosts — including NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers — but the actor, director and education and literacy advocate sees himself as a solid match for a game show that rewards knowledge.
Burton spoke with The Associated Press about his wife’s on-point advice, why diversity matters for “Jeopardy!” and what he thinks of his chances for the job expected to be filled this summer, before next season’s taping begins. Remarks have been edited for clarity and length.
AP: What was the guest-host experience like?
BURTON: Scary. Really, really, really scary. Did I mention it was scary?
AP: How so?
BURTON: I’ve jumped out of airplanes. I’ve walked over hot coals. This was a real challenge. First of all, because (‘Jeopardy!’) is singular in the culture and what it means to people as a part of their daily lives. And the fact that there are only two hosts who have ever stood in that spot. The pressure, the natural tendency was to want to live up to Alex’s example, his legacy. I had, like all of the hosts, one day of rehearsal and the following day I shot five episodes of ‘Jeopardy!’ I came backstage after taping the first episode and I said to Stephanie, ‘Well, how did I do?’ She said, ‘ehhh.’ Now, this is a woman who loves me enough to tell me the truth. She said it wasn’t me.
AP: How did you adjust?
BURTON: I made it my business for the next four chances at bat to just be myself, to forget about the procedure, to forget about the process, stop trying, stop focusing on the wrong thing. You’re not going to be smooth as Alex, let go of that. But what you can bring to the table is you. So that became my point of focus. And when it did, I started having fun.
AP: Why do you consider the show and the host’s role as worthwhile?
BURTON: I’ve been about education my entire career, and I definitely believe in the medium (of television) as one where more than simply entertaining is the order of the day. I try and use the medium in a way that brings something else to the table as often as I can. I think that ‘Roots’ and ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Reading Rainbow,’ they all have that commonality about them, that common thread of entertainment, yes — and informational, inspiring, enlightening, educational, uplifting. We can do so much more than just sell each other stuff with the medium.
AP: There’s significant diversity among the guest hosts. Would there be value in ‘Jeopardy!” having its first person of color or woman as host?
BURTON: There’s nothing like ‘Jeopardy!’ in the cultural consciousness. It’s not that I’m trying to put it on the same level, but I liken it to Barack Obama being elected president in the United States in 2008. I personally never thought I would see that happen in my lifetime. Did his election mean that we were in a post-racial America? Obviously not at all. But it was an important step. Every time we reach that milestone of a first, it does say something about us. It also tells us something that we continue to have these moments of firsts…. that white is the normative default. The reason that white is the default is the conversation that we are trying to have in this country now, that there’s so much resistance to.
AP: How optimistic are you about being picked as host?
BURTON: I am a preternaturally optimistic person. Look, if I don’t get this job, will it be devastating to me? No. I mean, it will hurt, I’ll be disappointed. And I’ll be fine, because what I know about my life is that which is supposed to be for me comes my way. And that which is not mine, doesn’t. The most important thing is that I went for it and my passion was rewarded. I got what I wanted, which was an opportunity to compete for the job. If I don’t get the gig, it’s not immaterial, but it certainly is secondary. I got what I was after. The chance — get me in the room.