iROKOtv has a chicken problem.

Chicken here refers to a user account which iROKOtv’s internal analytics revealed to be constantly in use across 30 countries and more than 100 devices. The account was obviously created by one person, and then shared with/filtered down to hundreds of people who do not want to pay to watch iROKOtv content.

Chicken is not alone in the password sharing racket, says Jason Njoku in a recent blogpost.

“We have identified this activity across 2,000+ accounts. Every time we kill the chickens, within 24hrs they arise from the dead. I don’t even know how this is possible so quickly. But is something we need to ultimately face and solve.”

Freeloaders via shared passwords are clearly bad for subscription businesses. Lost revenues. But describing it as an industry-wide problem is a bit exaggerated, because it’s not really a problem. If it was a problem, it’s already been solved. Not by stopping people from sharing their passwords (you can’t really stop them from doing that), or by deleting the offending accounts (is that what he means by killing chickens?) but rather by limiting active streams or blocking concurrent account sessions altogether. Like so.

deezer alert

That is what happens when I try to use my Deezer app on more than one device at the same time.

If you can already track account logins across various IPs and devices, limiting account activity to only one at a time shouldn’t be too hard. I’m not an engineer so I can’t say how easy or hard it is. What I can say though is that it’s not rocket science. The real question here is if iROKOtv’s tech team can implement concurrent session blocking, because like Deezer and Spotify have, it’s really just the obvious thing to do.

Jason references HBO and Netflix as experiencing the same problem, but context is needed. In the HBO article, the CEO was quoted as saying they don’t care about people sharing passwords — it has no impact on their business (HBO Go is an add-on to the original and extremely lucrative HBO cable subscription business) and they consider it terrific marketing to the next generation of content consumers. As for Netflix they tolerate concurrent streams because they have to pander to their touchy and vocal users. And even so, the number of active/simultaneous streams on Netflix is limitedno more than two people can stream from the same Netflix account at the same time.

In both cases, chickens exist on those services because the services allow it, not because they can’t prevent it.

All Jason has to do is get his engineers to block or limit concurrent sessions. Which is why I agree that bringing the technology in-house is the only way to go. And if you can’t get the technical chops you need locally, by all means go to New York. Hire former HBO Go engineers. Do whatever it takes. But there’s really no need to kill chickens if you can use the tools at your disposal to control their behaviour.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Bankole Oluwafemi Author

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