Television

A Lannister Always Pays His Debts — But Do Too Many Of His Fans Watch For Free?

Peter Dinklage stars as the cunning, charismatic Tyrion Lannister in HBO's hit drama Game Of Thrones. One security consultant suggests that the number of people watching the popular drama through HBO's streaming service HBO Go without paying for it could be high enough to pose a real challenge for providers of such services. i i

Peter Dinklage stars as the cunning, charismatic Tyrion Lannister in HBO's hit drama Game Of Thrones. One security consultant suggests that the number of people watching the popular drama through HBO's streaming service HBO Go without paying for it could be high enough to pose a real challenge for providers of such services. Helen Sloan/HBO hide caption

itoggle caption Helen Sloan/HBO
Peter Dinklage stars as the cunning, charismatic Tyrion Lannister in HBO's hit drama Game Of Thrones. One security consultant suggests that the number of people watching the popular drama through HBO's streaming service HBO Go without paying for it could be high enough to pose a real challenge for providers of such services.

Peter Dinklage stars as the cunning, charismatic Tyrion Lannister in HBO's hit drama Game Of Thrones. One security consultant suggests that the number of people watching the popular drama through HBO's streaming service HBO Go without paying for it could be high enough to pose a real challenge for providers of such services.

Helen Sloan/HBO

For today's All Things Considered story about people sharing their Netflix or Hulu Plus passwords, producer Sami Yenigun latched on to what could've been an ordinary entertainment-business story and front-loaded it with snippets of sound from Game of Thrones — attacking dragons, evil kings, treacherous harlots. He made it hilarious.

But if you don't have three minutes to listen, here's the gist: Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities believes that as many as 20 percent of the people using subscription-based streaming services such as Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Netflix aren't paying for them — but are using other people's passwords.

Pachter sees password-sharing as a real challenge for an industry that's still in development. And he says there are ways companies might start cracking down — basically, by giving different IDs to a limited number of people who share the same account.

"So if two people use the same user ID at the same time, then the content owner is going to be notified there's an illicit user, and they'll probably turn off both accounts," Pachter explains, adding that there's a risk there in ticking off the legitimate users.

The heads of several of these companies have publicly stated they're not terribly bothered by password-sharing. But recently Netflix added an option that seemed to indicate concern; it allows four people to legally stream videos at the same time.

Pachter predicts that'll never happen with HBO Go. Persuading the cable companies — once one of only a few pipelines, and still a gateway, between content producer and consumer — to acquiesce to the idea would probably take an army.

Or — cue sound — a dragon.

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