From November 1st through the Spring of 2020, at least four new content streamers will launch, which include Peacock (Comcast/NBCUniversal), HBO Max (AT&T/WarnerMedia), Disney+, and Apple+. The aforementioned list does not include existing players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. With the choice of streaming platforms growing exponentially, a concern is that customers will share passwords or forgo signing up for new streaming platforms when faced with an additional cost. Both scenarios are bad for the bottom-line.
In an age of password sharing (e.g., piracy), the question is how streamers can halt the practice. Hollywood executives have in many ways come to realize that piracy in the digital and streaming age is somewhat inevitable. There are just too many ways to stay ahead of regulators and enforcers. In other words, password sharing is too easy and seemingly harmless.
However, there are five ways that streamers can prevent, or at least discourage, the piracy of content.
Education is an essential component to understanding what piracy is and where piracy hurts the most. Studios and streamers can mostly weather the storms of financial change and uncertainty. Even A-list actors have similar if not near invincibility. However, the below-the-line talent or those not yet getting paid top dollar are harmed significantly and more proportionally. Stealing is wrong, but somehow when it is digital it is overlooked. A values campaign on piracy may be overdue.
Technology can be used to do many things, including theft, unfortunately. However, technology can also be used or developed to prevent password sharing through IP address recognition and blocking based on account, double or even triple authentication, and much more. Studios and streamers should invest in such technology to prevent sharing or passwords and loss of revenue for all involved in the production and distribution of entertainment, media, and sports content. Such technology could also be used to help law enforcement and the government to enforce piracy existing laws.
Pricing is an important and often overlooked part of business development, economics, and marketing. A good price can drive customers to one product, while a bad price can do just the opposite. Good and bad prices are not as simple as too high or too low. A price needs to be competitive, comparative, and commensurate with competitors. With so many streaming options, finding a cost that corresponds with competitors is essential. For example, if one streaming platform costs more, that is fine, but the amount and significance of content on that platform should correspond to the price being charged. Customers are smart and will pick up on whether something is a value, or at least well-priced.
Collaboration in two parts. First, as an example, the deals between Sprint/Hulu, T-Mobile/Netflix, Disney+/Verizon, the built-in customer bases of Apple/Apple+ and AT&T/HBO Max (since AT&T owns WarnerMedia), show that existing mobile customers (or certain cell phone users) can be reached to establish an immediate subscriber/user base. This opportunity is expanded by brokering deals between mobile carriers and streamers where content is free for some period of time. Something that is free cannot be stolen and of course those partaking in such arrangements will be discouraged from sharing passwords where the account is directly tied to the cell phone.
Secondly, as an example, Amazon Prime Video is well situated in the current and foreseeable market because it has set itself up as a platform for all platforms. It has a built-in defense mechanism because people have to use the Amazon multi-verse to access shipping and a multitude of streaming options. The point here is that streamers would be wise to play nice in the proverbial content licensing/sharing sandbox. For example, Peacock will be different because of its promise to continue licensing its content to other platforms despite having its own platform. Streamers need to avoid the mistakes of cable where too much choice and diversification led to piracy.
Streamers would also be wise to incentivize its customers with freebees, which encourages customer satisfaction and retention. DAZN, for example, recently announced that it will offer a list of free content. This tactic does two things. For one, it encourages brand loyalty and secondly it provides an incentive to stay on the platform by the customer receiving the feeling of being valued. Having ad-based content as an option is also wise for folks who do not want pay top dollar.
The coming months will be telling on how the streamers roll out their platforms. Specifically, the who, what, where, when, and why of their content and delivery. Piracy concerns will be a part of that analysis.