Disney+ is cracking down on password sharing too

Once Netflix announced they were cracking down on password sharing, I knew the other streamers would follow suit. Bob Iger was the longtime CEO of Disney before retiring in 2020. Then another Bob, Bob Chapek, took over. Other Bob was awful, managing both to alienate Disney’s creative talent and make bad business decisions. Bob Iger was called out of retirement as clean-up man in November 2022. But I don’t think Bob the First is doing so hot in his second term as CEO. The latest sign of trouble? Iger admitted in an earnings call that password sharing was an issue he wanted to address soon, with policies being changed later this year and actually rolled out in 2024. Disney is also hiking up prices for its streaming platforms, starting on October 1st. The ad-free tiers of Hulu and Disney+ are both increasing by $3 a month to $17.99 and $13.99 respectively, and ESPN is also increasing by $1 a month. Disney+ has a decent subscriber base of 105 million people, but they are experiencing a lot of churn. The fact that they’re going to get rid of password sharing honestly seems like another death knell for streaming as we know it.

Disney is officially following Netflix’s lead: “We are actively exploring ways to address account sharing and the best options for paying subscribers to share their accounts with friends and family,” Iger said on Disney’s quarterly earnings call Aug. 9. “Later this year, we will begin to update our subscriber agreements with additional terms on our sharing policies, and we will roll out tactics to drive monetization sometime in 2024.”

Their terms of service don’t say anything about password sharing: Currently, in the subscriber agreements for Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, the only mention of password-sharing is that customers may not “share your login credentials with third parties.” Right now, they don’t specifically address whether it’s OK to let friends or family members who don’t live in the same household use the accounts.

Bob Iger’s cagey about specifics: Iger, responding to an analyst’s question about how widespread the issue of password sharing is for Disney+ and its other service, declined to get into specifics. “I’m not going to give you a specific number, except to say that it’s significant,” he said. “What we don’t know, of course, is as we get to work on this, how much of the password sharing as we basically eliminate it will convert to growth in subs. Obviously, we believe there will be some, but we’re not speculating.”

Iger continued, “What we are saying, though, is that in calendar ’24, we’re going to get at this issue. And so while it is likely you’ll see some impact in calendar ’24, it’s possible that we won’t be complete or the work will not be completed within the calendar year. But we certainly have established this as a real priority. And we actually think that there’s an opportunity here to help us grow our business.”

[From Variety]

I remember the days when it seemed like Disney was invincible–I am, after all, a millennial–but every Troy must fall. They haven’t had an original, non-remake Disney movie truly pierce the zeitgeist since Frozen, and that came out in 2013. Frozen was inescapable for months. There have been some very good Disney movies since then, but so much of their output now is live-action remakes of varying quality and reiterations of other IPs like Star Wars and Marvel. My marketing/branding background is kicking in here but I think I’ve just noticed a critical problem. Disney thinks its brand is mostly about nostalgia, but it’s not. Nostalgia isn’t the whole brand. Disney is also supposed to be about imagination and dreams and magic. You don’t get “magic” by regurgitating the same stories over and over again. They need to do something fresh with their content strategy to justify these price hikes and crackdowns on passwords–or if they want to grow their subscriber base.

Bob Iger dances around this but I think they will initially lose some subscribers if they start making it impossible for people to share passwords with their families. People just can’t afford having so many streaming services. Let’s not forget that Bob Iger said that the striking writers and actors are being “unrealistic” about their demands for higher wages and protections from AI encroachment. He makes $27 million a year. Meanwhile he’s out here nickel-and-diming Disney+ subscribers, wanting to make it impossible for you to share your Hulu password with your grandma, and calling it “disturbing” that actors want to be able to (*checks notes*) earn a living wage and have health insurance. What a sweetheart!

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Photos credit: Richard Harbaugh / Avalon, Justin Ng / Avalon, Getty Images

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