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Credential sharing is costing video providers millions in lost revenue

New research from Cartesian shows streaming video providers miss out on subscribers by ignoring credential sharing

Boston(20 Dec 2018)

What has been an effective strategy for OTT video providers to win new subscribers appears to be backfiring.  New research by specialist consulting firm, Cartesian, reveals that 27% 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 behaviors 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% 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%) 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%) 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 categorizes 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%) and non-household relatives (39%) 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 behavioral 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 behavior. You need to analyze 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.”

Cartesian surveyed 1,183 American consumers in November 2018 that represent a cross-range of ages and households on how they access streaming video, and the drivers behind credential sharing. 

Download the report here:

About Cartesian, Inc.

Cartesian, Inc. is a specialist provider of consulting services and managed solutions to leaders in the global communications, technology and digital media industries. 

With over 25 years of experience assessing and delivering solutions for the media and entertainment sector, we offer a holistic approach to content security. Cartesian’s content security services include anti-piracy services, security consulting, the Farncombe Security Audit™, and streaming video credential sharing detection and prevention services.

Cartesian's Streaming Video Credential Sharing Detection & Prevention Solution:

  • Integrates with existing TV Everywhere and OTT platforms. 
  • Screens for all relevant credential sharing and theft patterns, leveraging proprietary and industry-leading clustering and geospatial dispersion algorithms. 
  • Provides lists of accounts that have been compromised and an ongoing platform-wide health check.

Cartesian’s clients include TV broadcasters, video service providers, equipment vendors, and network operators. 

The company has offices in Boston, Kansas City, London, New York and Paris. For more information, visit