TV Answer Man, I read your article tonight about Sling TV getting rid of the free trials and another story about Netflix and passwords. Do you think that the companies will stop offering these? It’s very helpful to our family. — Crystal, Dover, Delaware.
Crystal, streaming services for years have offered incentives such as a free trial period or the ability to share passwords with friends to generate new subscribers. But the days of watching a TV subscription service without paying are rapidly coming to an end.
Sling TV last week quietly eliminated its three-day free trial, joining Netflix, HBO Max and Disney+ as streaming services that no longer allow new customers to watch for a period of time before having to decide whether or not to subscribe. And Netflix last week confirmed that it’s testing a new feature that would prevent subscribers from sharing their passwords with non-family members.
“If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching,” states a Netflix on-screen warning when a non-subscriber tries to watch with a subscriber’s user name and password.
Despite what some news reports are suggesting, Netflix has not decided to roll out the new feature to all subscribers. But the streaming service has hinted for the past year that it might start cracking down on password sharing. Although Netflix’s rules prohibit it, the company’s executives have acknowledged publicly for years that it happens, and that it could actually drive new subscriptions.
Netflix has received some benefit from password sharing because it leads to more people becoming aware of what the service offers. And some of these folks will eventually get their own subscriptions. This is one reason why Netflix has not taken any serious measures to stop password sharing. The company realizes that password sharing has some long-term advantages.
But the streaming industry has become increasingly competitive, forcing both live streamers such as Sling TV, and subscription Video on Demand services, such as Netflix, to reassess their policies.
In the last year or so, Disney (Disney+), AT&T (HBO Max) and Comcast (Peacock) have all launched national streaming services. With Disney also running Hulu and e-commerce giant Amazon behind Prime Video, the streamers need every subscriber they can get. They no longer have the luxury to hope that a free trial or the sharing of a password will entice someone to sign up.
With so many streaming services available now, it’s also likely many consumers are using free trials, and password sharing, to watch programming on a regular basis without any intent to subscribe. The streaming companies are rapidly concluding that they are losing significant revenue due to free trial cheating, and password sharing. In the coming months, you’re likely to see more streaming services eliminate both perks.
Crystal, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann