Sure, people share their Netflix – or your OTT service – user names and passwords with their buddies and families. Or their credentials get stolen and posted on the internet for illegal use. But is this a “solvable” problem, in the practical sense of the word? Or can you grow your OTT service despite credentials sharing?

Credentials sharing isn’t necessarily Darth Vader in the OTT galaxy

Trying to solve the “credentials sharing problem” is an impressive goal, but possibly a wasteful one and a diversion from the real problem – service abuse. Some solution providers may portray the two to be the same. Their storyline goes something like this:

“IDs and passwords are shared, casually or maliciously, leading to lack of control on usage, data and service quality. For this reason, credentials sharing is the root of all evil, the Darth Vader in your OTT galaxy. You are going to need a whole load of tools and services from us to track and analyze Darth Vader’s every move. And we’ll help you take him down.”

But wait. Here is the problem. Credentials sharing is especially rampant for the most popular OTT services like Netflix and Amazon, but some of them still manage to grow. I am not saying credentials sharing is nothing to worry about. What I am saying is this: credentials sharing can slow or stop your OTT growth, ONLY if you do absolutely nothing else to control service abuse.

Business rules are the lightsabers to cut through service abuse

Netflix is a shining example of successfully implementing usage rules to support their business models. They offer different pricing tiers tied to the number of concurrent streams, and they also charge differently by content types (e.g. SD, HD, UltraHD). And many other operators have adopted similar models. Rules are effective when they are easy for consumers to understand, simple to administer, and compliant to content owners’ requirements. The most popular rules I’ve seen operators implement are:

  • Maximum number of concurrent streams – not only effective for differentiating pricing tiers, but also important for controlling CDN cost per subscriber.
  • Geo blocking (with optional VPN detection)
  • Device management – which devices are registered to use the service, though this feature is losing its popularity to concurrent stream management.

In short, to ensure your service isn’t abused, first define what reasonable usage looks like in your OTT business model. It’s likely that whatever rule(s) you set today will change over time to adapt to new demands or competition. To stay flexible, look for an OTT solution that goes far beyond just supporting multiple DRMs. It must allow you to easily change business policies and usage rules across all screens, regardless of the underlying DRM.

Oh, and make sure whoever is giving you advice is actually invested in the video business. Only solution providers who are actively innovating in media security can be aligned with your goals and provide you with the right type of long-term support.