Charter disclosed yesterday that it lost a net of 104,000 video subscribers in the third quarter.

The losses, which were revealed in the company’s third quarter earnings report, is in keeping with results from other major pay TV operators which also lost video customers in the time period.

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AT&T said this week that DIRECTV and U-verse lost a combined total of 385,000 net video subscribers in the third quarter, although DIRECTV Now’s addition of 296,000 paying customers helped offset the defections. Comcast yesterday disclosed that it lost 125,000 video subs in the third quarter.

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However, while AT&T and Comcast both blamed hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as increased competition from live streaming services, for their video troubles, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge yesterday offered a more novel explanation:

Password sharing.

Rutledge told financial analysts in a conference call following the third quarter report’s release that cable subscribers who are permitted to watch their subscribed channels online are sharing their passwords with friends and family members. (Cable and satellite’s ‘TV Everywhere’ feature enables customers to watch their channels online with a provider-supplied user name and password.)

The Charter executive suggested that programmers are doing a poor job of ensuring the passwords are not shared with others.

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“Multi-stream products being sold to those households allow consumers to purchase one product and share it among multiple users. That affects the price/value relationship of video in general, and that affects what people are subscribing to, “Rutledge said. “There’s an enormous ability for people to receive free content because of the way content distributors are securing their product so ineffectively.”

Unless this changes, Rutledge suggested,  pay TV operators will continue to struggle to attract and keep video subscribers.

Basically, Rutledge is saying, hurricanes will come and go, but password sharing may be here to stay.

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— Phillip Swann