Paying for “Hipster Cable”

July 19th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

As many as 10 million people are watching paid subscription services without paying. Are you one of them?

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Recently, Bloomberg reported that Netflix, which has “won over consumers and Hollywood with its mix of TV reruns, old movies and original shows, all for $7.99-a-month with liberal policies that let family and friends share one account,” is tightening things up a bit. According to Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Securities analyst in Los Angeles, as many as 10 million people are watching the online video service without paying.

Blogger Tim Donnelly, who writes for Brooklyn bargain-hunting blog Brokelyn, admits he’s a “Netflix moocher,” but says that the service’s new plan, to release a $12 plan that allows four people to stream simultaneously, is one he can get behind. After all, Netflix has led the charge against prohibitively expensive cable services, he says, and “paved the way for Hulu and HBO GO, and for Amazon’s streaming service and the next billion waves of on-demand, TV-free entertainment options that will follow.” Paying the few dollars a month for his own subscription, he writes, is “the act of recognizing when a company or product has decided to cut out the middle person and appeal to me directly, giving me exactly what I want.”

Plus, it’s the right thing to do. In an “All Things Considered” piece on NPR, Neda Ulaby spoke with people who have been sharing accounts – a trend she says people refer to as “hipster cable.”

“Our guy,” she says, “who does not want his name used on the air, traded his Hulu Plus password for his friend’s Netflix and HBO GO passwords.” The hipster cable user explains, “This HBO GO does not belong to my friend Kitty who gives it to me. That HBO GO belongs to her parents. And they gave her the password and stuff so she could use it and then, by a proxy, share it with me.” In the end, explains Ulaby, a single password is being shared by potentially dozens of people.

NPR quotes analyst Pachter chiding hipster cable users: “People should know better,” he says, adding that there are ways the streaming video companies could start cracking down. Until now, Netflix is the only service to announce a crackdown - and cutting it down to four sharers still means that if four people split the cost, they’d still only be paying a fraction of what traditional cable costs. And while the other companies haven’t expressed concern, does that make hipster cable right?

If you’re sharing a service, would this convince you to get your own account, or not? Weigh in.