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Hulu Begins Its Password Crackdown

by April 22, 2024
Hulu Cracks Down On Sharing

Hulu Cracks Down On Sharing

Hulu has begun cracking down on the ubiquitous but ethically dubious practice of password-sharing. Last year, streaming’s top dog, Netflix, began its own crackdown on subscribers who share their logins, and now Hulu appears to be following suit. At the end of January, Disney (which now owns Hulu) notified current Hulu subscribers by email that the terms of service for a Hulu subscription would be changing. “We're adding limitations on sharing your account outside of your household,” the email said, “and explaining how we may assess your compliance with these limitations.” The new rules, which officially went into effect for existing subscribers on March 14th, prohibit using “another person’s username, password, or other account information.” The new policy was effective immediately for new Hulu subscribers who signed up for the streaming service after January 25th, 2024.

Hulu Password Crackdown

The amended subscriber agreement is crystal clear about the practice of sharing login credentials. “You may not share your subscription outside of your household,” it says. “Household means the collection of devices associated with your primary personal residence that are used by the individuals who reside therein.” The previous version of the subscriber agreement didn’t mention password-sharing at all. Those who violate the new rules risk having their accounts limited or terminated entirely, according to the new terms of service. Disney has made similar changes to the subscriber agreement for Disney+, though enforcement isn’t expected to begin for Disney+ until this summer. According to USA Today, Disney’s chief financial officer, Hugh Johnston, said during a February earnings call that Disney+ accounts suspected of “improper sharing” will see a pop-up prompting users to sign up for their own subscriptions. Johnston also said that Disney will also allow account-holders to add people outside their household for an additional fee later this year.

We want to reach as large an audience as possible with our outstanding content. We’re looking forward to rolling out this new functionality to improve the overall customer experience and grow our subscriber base.

— Hugh Johnston, Chief Financial Officer of Disney

Hulu Password Sharing EmailAccording to CBS News, a financial filing from Disney showed that Hulu’s subscriber revenue (excluding the company’s live TV offering) fell 2% last fall compared to the previous quarter. This decrease reflects Hulu’s loss of about 100,000 subscribers during that time. The same document shows 43.9 million current Hulu users, up from just 32.1 million in 2020. Despite significant growth during the Covid-19 pandemic, Hulu’s subscriber numbers are not high enough to overcome the financial effects of password-sharing. The data retrieval firm Secure Data Recovery conducted a survey showing that 69% of Americans admit to having used someone else’s streaming account. A 2023 poll from the product review website reviews.org showed that 51% of Hulu subscribers in the U.S. said they share their login credentials with people outside of their households. Among the major streaming services, only Netflix had a higher proportion of account-holders who admitted to sharing passwords.

But this practice of password-sharing appears to be on the way out as more companies look to maximize revenue. In the early days of streaming, HBO famously encouraged people to share accounts in an attempt to hook new subscribers on must-see shows, like Game of Thrones. Not so in 2024. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO JB Perrette recently announced that the streaming service Max (formerly HBO Max) will be informing subscribers at some point this year of its own new policy banning account-sharing, to be put into effect in 2025. Netflix reportedly added over 8 million subscribers in the fall of 2023 after its own crackdown was put into effect. I know a few (unnamed) individuals who use someone else’s Hulu login, and so far, neither they nor the account holders they mooch from have noticed a change in their Hulu access. The changes to the subscriber agreement seem to state that the crackdown will only affect those using Hulu on a smart TV or streaming device, such as a Roku or Apple TV. Those who watch on a phone or laptop should be fine. The clock is certainly ticking, however. If you use someone else’s Hulu account, you are streaming on borrowed time.


About the author:
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Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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