Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown

Welcome to the T.G.I.F. edition of the cable news roundup.

  • Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill that'll make it illegal to share logins for Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and other video websites. If this kind of crackdown goes wider, the legal benefits will also extend to MSOs, satellite TV and telco TV service providers that are launching TV Everywhere services on broadband-connected devices and are wary of having customers share access with unauthorized users. (See Comcast's TV Everywhere Play Breaks Out of Beta .)

  • LightSquared may be close to striking a US$20 billion, 15-year deal with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) to share the costs of building a broadband wireless network. (See Sprint Gives Clearwire $1B Boost.)

  • That line from Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) CEO Glenn Britt about the MSO targeting broadband-only subs has caused some to wonder if cable's "giving up on the triple play."

  • New Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) lobbyist Meredith Attwell Baker told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) general counsel's office on April 13 that she was interviewing for a gig at NBCUniversal LLC , according to the House Oversight Committee. The former FCC commissioner faces questions about joining the cable giant just months after voting to approve the Comcast-NBCU merger. (See Attwell Baker Jumps From FCC to Comcast.)

  • If only the International Olympic Committee would televise the auction for TV and online video rights that'll take place Monday and Tuesday in Switzerland. Among the media execs making the trip are Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke, Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) CEO Bob Iger, ESPN CEO George Bodenheimer, and Fox Sports Chairman David Hill.

  • Tablets running Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android platform will overtake Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPad, Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) CEO Shantanu Narayen predicted Thursday.

  • Jon Favreau and Christopher Nolan joined the posse of directors fighting new premium video-on-demand (VoD) services from DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and other pay-TV providers that sell movies for $29.99 just two months after they debut in theaters. (See Study: $30 VoD Titles Won't Win.)

  • Comcast's Metro Ethernet product is scoring new commercial customers in Utah, including the Stein Ericksen Lodge in Park City. (See Comcast Expands Metro Ethernet and Juniper, Cisco Share Comcast's MetroE Spoils .)

  • For your viewing enjoyment -- and further proof that movie studios are continuing to invest in 3-D -- here's a trailer for Happy Feet Two that is burning up the Web. (See 2010 Top Ten: 3DTV Hype Builders .)

    — Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

  • Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:03:23 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown

    So according to that linked article, it's now illegal in Tennessee to share a media-service password even within your own family?

    Wow, that's stupid. They say it won't get enforced that way, but the fact that the law doesn't provide an allowance for small-scale sharing... stupid.

    paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:03:22 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown


    You mean like having to pay for separate STBs?



    paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:03:21 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown


    A Set-top = A PS/3 with a password.  What I think is being said that 2 PS/3s in the household have to have 2 Passwords.  Not 1.  That to me is like having 2 charges for 2 STBs.  Now I think it happened in TN due to Nashville, but that is a separate topic.



    Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:03:21 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown

    Actually, no.

    If you want to use set-top boxes as an analogy, this law is like charging per household member per set-top box.

    SteveDonohue 12/5/2012 | 5:03:20 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown

    Rather than try to crack down on people sharing passwords, I think the better approach would be to limit the number of devices or IP addresses that can access an acocunt, similar to Apple's iTunes strategy. I want to follow up with Comcast and other pay TV companeis with TV Everywhere sites to see what their policies are when it comes to sharing passwords for sites like Fancast Xfinity TV. What happens when a college student in the household goes to back to school in the fall and shares his password with friends in the dorm? 

    Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:03:20 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown

    I see what you're saying now, but that's not where I was coming from, and I don't think it's what the law is saying.

    The way I read the article, if a single-TV household is inhabited by two people, they must now buy two Netflix accounts. And that's stupid.

    The law is intended to prevent someone from sharing a Rhapsody password with 200 other people -- dorm sharing, for instance.  And that's reasonable.  But why not take into consideration the obvious family-use cases? Netflix, especially, is something people get with the specific intent of sharing.

    But, after all, the law was written for (and probably BY) the movie and recording industries. Not for us.

    paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:03:19 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown


    I agree with what you are saying Craig but I did notice it was written around devices.  I think the challenge is with multi-user devices - like a PC.  My guess is that Netflix and companies like it need to come up with a family license and individual license (maybe make one cost less?).  The family license would be "sitewide" and the individual one is device only.  What to do about a shared PC is not able to be tracked by anyone so I am not sure its an issue.



    jdbower 12/5/2012 | 5:03:17 PM
    re: Netflix Subs Face Password-Sharing Crackdown

    The issue with the per-IP model is it doesn't work very well, and it will work even worse soon.  I watch NetFlix from home, one IP address and it hasn't changed since I got my ISP over a year ago - that part works.

    But I can also stream to my phone.  Now the problem is two-fold.  My problem is that I'm behind a set of randomly assigned NAT IP addresses and even if I don't roam around I could be associated with dozens of IPs.  NetFlix's problem is that I could share my password with people local to me and there's a good chance NetFlix wouldn't be able to tell which connection is mine and which is someone in the NAT area.

    I can also stream to my laptop when I'm on the road as well as to my phone over WiFi.  Now my IP address moves around from the local Starbucks to the hotel I'm staying at to the airport...  It gets hard to keep track.

    And what happens when IPv6 hits?  Well, either each device in my house gets a unique IP address (in which case I've now got on the order of 10 devices that could be talking to NetFlix legitimately) or the ISPs punt (again) and put in a large scale NAT which means I can share my NetFlix password with my neighbors without them being able to detect it.

    Simultaneous streams is a decent metric, but how many are allowed?  One per family member?  Do we need to provide birth certificates?  And this doesn't prevent TDMA - if I call my friend to make sure she's not watching anything before I start up a stream it's again undetectable.  It reduces the fraud to a "trusted circle" from a technical perspective but doesn't actually prevent it.

    There really isn't much of a technical solution that will be immediately workable.  I agree with the spirit of the law, but we need more clarity over exceptions for family and a definition of what a family is.  Should a college student not living at home have access to the account?  How about a roommate who would normally have access to the single cable subscription?  It's quite possible that traditional subscription models break down with TV-anywhere in the mix.  But do we charge per-person?  That's not fair to a family of 6 who only watch on a single TV.  Per device?  That's not fair to tech-savvy people with multiple laptops/phones/tablets and precludes the ability to watch on the potental rental devices like ChromeOS laptops (which would be an interesting market to watch).  Per simultaneous stream may make sense, but we need to be careful about how the software works in case we pay for one stream and two people in two rooms start streaming together accidentally as well as having well-defined provisions as to who's "family."

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