There was a strong growth for streaming among U.S. adults in 2020, but not all of those gains came from new subscribers, as the practice of password sharing has led to a total of 88 million “borrowed” accounts, according to a new study from CordCutting.com.
In its “Subscription Mooching: 2021 Annual Report,” CordCutting.com noted an increase of nearly 50 million U.S. adults saying that they watch streaming—168 million in 2020, 214 million as of this latest report. That represents more than 80% of people over the age of 18. However, with 88 million accounts being shared, the study estimates that streaming platforms are missing out on more than $4 billion in subscription fees, up from $2.6 billion in 2020.
The report says that only about 60% of people are paying for their own streaming subscription, but it varies depending on the platform. Amazon Prime Video has the largest percentage of users that subscribe on their own (72%), actually up from 2020 (69%). Disney+ is the lowest at 52%, but that is also up from 2020 (50%). In fact, all of the streaming platforms including in the report, except Hulu, saw an increase in the percentage of people that paid for their own subscription (HBO Max did not have data for 2020).
As far as percentage of people sharing streaming passwords outside of their own home, nearly all of the streaming services are less than 20%, with Disney+ being the lone exception right at the 20% mark; it was also the only service (not including HBO Max) to increase year-over-year as well. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video have all seen decreases in what CordCutting.com calls “moochers” over the last three years, with the percentage in the latest report at 13%, 11% and 5%, respectively.
If the moochers and borrowers were forced to pay for a streaming service, a healthy portion of them would. At least 30% of respondents said that they would pay for one of the five streaming services included in the survey, with Netflix and Disney+ the most popular (43% and 42%).
This helped CordCutting.com come up with the estimate for lost revenue from borrowed accounts. It estimated that Netflix is losing the most money at $1.8 billion; HBO Max entered the equation losing about $1 billion in lost revenue; and Disney+ doubled year-over-year to $880 million. This all contributed to the rise of more than $4 billion in lost revenue among the five services.
Some streamers are now taking action to try and prevent password sharing, including Netflix, which has tested password verification. Tv Technology