More bad news from the streaming world – Disney+ is clamping down on password sharing. As if regular price rises and the addition of adverts in the US weren't bad enough, the House of Mouse is now following Netflix in stopping users sharing their accounts with anyone outside their household. (Or should that be mousehold?) Which has made me take a long, hard look at the family finances.
Don't tell anyone, but I've been sharing a friend's account for going on three years now. And like many families up and down the country, we have to think carefully about whether we can afford yet another monthly outgoing, especially for something as superfluous as a streaming service.
The price is right
I'd hate to lose it. Disney+ has become one of our most-used apps. Not only is it one of the best streaming services for kids, with the full library of Bluey on hand to calm any tantrums (along with less edifying fare like Super Kitties and Spidey and His Amazing Friends), there's also plenty for grown-ups, like The Mandalorian, The Banshees of Inisherin, The Bear, Hamilton and WandaVision. No wonder it won a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award. And I haven't paid a penny for it.
Which has been mostly great. I say mostly, because there is one niggle. It's a US account I'm sharing, which means the library doesn't match up with the UK Disney+. I searched in vain for Welcome to Wrexham, for example, before realising it's on Hulu in the US. I know, break out the tiny violin.
Over the years, I reckon I've saved over £200 thanks to password sharing. But the gravy train could soon be derailed.
No free lunch
Disney's CEO Bob Iger recently revealed the firm was "actively exploring" ways to stop password sharing (via The Motley Fool). It's hardly surprising. Netflix made the same move earlier this summer – now, if you want to share your account with someone outside your household, you have to add them as a separate member for £4.99 / $7.99 / AU$7.99 a month. And it paid off. Since the move, Netflix added nearly 6 million extra customers. Is it any wonder Disney+ wants to do the same?
The one upside is that Disney's crackdown will take some time to implement. Iger said the firm will update its policies later this year, and "roll out tactics to drive monetization sometime in 2024".
But it likely won't happen until the year after.
"In calendar '24, we're going to get at this issue," Iger went on. "And so while it is likely you'll see some impact in calendar '24, it's possible that we won't be complete or the work will not be completed within the calendar year."
In other words, it probably won't ban password sharing until 2025. Which gives me a year and some change to try and rebalance the family finances.
A bubble about to burst?
I wonder how many other households are having similar conversations. We currently have Sky Q with Netflix, Prime Video as part of Amazon Prime and Disney+, yet the majority of our viewing is still the terrestrial channels. Add Apple TV+ for completeness, and the costs soon add up – you could be looking at a monthly bill of around £60. And that's not including some of the lesser known services like Mubi, Shudder and Crunchyroll.
You don't need me to tell you that despite inflation falling, everything is still getting more expensive (including essentials like petrol, energy prices and food) just at a slower rate. With streaming services also putting up prices, something has to give.
Just in the UK, Netflix has raised its prices six times in seven years, and as recent industry moves have shown, where Netflix leads the others tend to follow. Streamers promised us a radical new world of entertainment, and while their rapid rise has reshaped the televisual landscape, I wonder if we're living through more of a bubble than a bona fide revolution. They're already adding adverts and stopping password sharing, which were two of the biggest draws to streaming in the first place. How long is the current model sustainable?
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