Disney this summer will roll out a paid password sharing plan on its Disney+ streaming flagship that CEO Bob Iger says was directly influenced by Netflix’s successful initiative last year.
Starting this summer, CFO Hugh Johnston said during Wednesday’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts, Disney+ accounts “suspected of improper sharing will be presented with new capabilities” letting them sign up for the service. Later in 2024, he added, subscribers who want to share their accounts with someone outside their household can start paying an as-yet-undisclosed fee for that flexibility. The financial benefits are not expected to be realized until the “back half” of the year, Johnston said.
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Hulu, which Disney took full control of at the end of 2023, last week notified customers of changes to its password policy. Iger has talked for months about the upside of tightening limits on shared passwords, and sees it as a key part of the company hitting its long-established goal of starting to turn a profit in streaming by the end of fiscal 2024.
Netflix is a bit more than a year into its campaign to implement paid password sharing across the world. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos signaled in December 2022 that the move had the potential to elicit subscriber backlash. “Consumers aren’t going to love it right out of the gate, but we need to show them why they should see value,” the exec said at a Wall Street conference.
Instead of alienating subscribers, the process has generally gone smoothly, in part due to pricing. In the U.S., paying to share a password costs $7.99 a month, while a new subscription to the company’s subscription tier with advertising is a dollar cheaper. The dual approach to password sharing and advertising has boosted cash flow and profitability at Netflix as well as helping the ad tier gain early traction. Disney launched advertising on Disney+ in December 2022, a month after Netflix.
Johnston was asked during the call to estimate the size of the potential lift to Disney revenue. He declined to offer a specific target number, but said the opportunity is “probably isn’t all that different from what our competitor has found.” The advent of paid password sharing, he added, “is one of the things that gives us confidence in our subscriber number,” with a certain number of households likely to pay for the right to share.
In an interview with CNBC immediately preceding the earnings call, Iger said Netflix was the model for Disney’s pursuit of a tighter policy on password sharing.
“We are aiming to not only turn that business into a business that’s profitable, but to turn that business into a business that delivers margins that we feel good about, that we expect from all of our businesses,” he said. “Netflix had an over 10-year head start on us. We launched Disney streaming just over four years ago. It’s still a nascent business in many respects, very successful when you look at the number of global subs that we signed up right away and then obviously since then. And, but when you think about Netflix and you think about what they have done on password sharing, which we’re going to get to later this year … it won’t impact us until 2025.”
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