Media Passwords 2/20/15

Sharing Media Passwords

It seems so easy! Type in your password and have access to countless video streams on a service you pay for—such as Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, HBO Go, or WatchESPN. And it seems just as easy to give your log-in to someone else.

Surprisingly, a newly released Consumer Reports survey shows that 46 percent of those asked share their passwords with friends or relatives who don’t live with them.

Is sharing your password illegal? Consumer Reports’ review of the terms of agreements finds that some seem ambiguous. But Consumer Reports says that the companies don’t seem to be cracking down. However, business models are evolving—and next year things could be different. As companies such as HBO and Dish Network begin to offer more online-only content, Consumer Reports says that they may get more protective of the revenue they get from streaming and a bit more interested in exactly who’s watching. But for the time being, they appear to be more interested in creating streaming media addicts.

Though it technically may be OK to hand out your password, you could get blocked unexpectedly. Netflix, like several others, limits simultaneous viewing. Each subscription plan is different.

• Netflix is one to four screens at the same time, depending on your plan.
• Amazon Prime allows two at a time.
• HBO Go allows three at a time.
• Hulu Plus allows only one.
• WatchESPN, unlike the others, does not state any limits.

So if you don’t want to interrupt your own viewing pleasure, those limits should make you think twice before you give out your password.

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Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.