Disney, Charter Ink Distribution Deal, Aim to Prevent Piracy

Disney and Charter Communications, which just inked a new distribution deal, also stated they have partnered to prevent the sharing of a single account among multiple people. The distribution deal, which involves Disney’s Hulu, ESPN Plus and the soon-to-debut Disney Plus, will let customers buy online services either through Disney or Charter’s Spectrum TV service. The deal will also allow Charter to carry Disney-owned TV channels, including ABC, FX, National Geographic and others, on its cable service.

Wired reports that Charter executive vice president Tom Montemagno stated the two companies have “agreed to work together on piracy mitigation … [by] implement[ing] business rules and techniques to address such issues as unauthorized access and password sharing.”

The companies did not go into details about how they plan to prevent account sharing. But Charter chief executive Tom Rutledge has “complained about account sharing several times over the past few years while criticizing TV networks for not fully locking down their content.”

“There’s lots of extra streams, there’s lots of extra passwords, there’s lots of people who could get free service,” he said.

Wired suggests that “the crackdown could target people who use Charter TV account logins to sign into Disney services online,” or that, “Charter could monitor usage of its broadband network to help Disney fight account sharing.”

Congress eliminated broadcast privacy rules in 2017, which means that “Disney could track the IP addresses of users signing in to its services, and Charter could match those IP addresses to those of its broadband customers.” Customers who want to get around that “could use VPN services to attempt to avoid detection.”

Charter, which, with 15.8 million residential TV customers, is the second-biggest cable TV service, lost 400,000 video customers in the past year. But its broadband service has risen from 23.1 million to 24.2 million residential customers in the same time frame. In contrast to Disney and Charter’s plan to police account sharing, “Netflix and HBO haven’t cared as much.”

“Password sharing is something you have to learn to live with, because there’s so much legitimate password sharing, like you sharing with your spouse, with your kids,” said Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings in 2016. Former HBO chief executive Richard Plepler described password sharing as a “terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers.”