Streaming Subscription Mooching in 2022
Post-pandemic mooching holds steady, causing streaming platforms to miss out on $2.3 billion in membership fees
Written By – Stephen Lovely, Managing Editor | Published: April 11th, 2022
If the first year of pandemic streaming was devoted to “Tiger King,” the second one was the year of “Squid Game.” No matter the show they binged, millions of Americans watched those Netflix hits with login credentials they didn’t pay for.
In the latest installment of our annual subscription mooching research (we define subscription mooching as using the account of someone outside your household without paying for it), we determined how many Americans stream content – and how many do so from accounts they don’t pay for.
Key findings from our research:
- There are roughly 215 million American adults who use streaming platforms. One-in-four are borrowing account logins from people who live outside their homes.
- The average moocher borrows logins for 1-2 accounts. This equates to nearly 86 million mooched accounts.
- The platforms people are mooching most in 2022 are HBOMax and Disney+. Additionally, while Peacock and Paramount+ are the newest platforms in our analysis, subscriptions to these services are being mooched as much as Amazon Prime.
- If viewers could no longer mooch off someone outside of their household, they’d be most interested in purchasing their own Peacock and Paramount+ accounts.
- Streaming platforms are still missing out on an estimated $2.3 billion in subscription fees from those who don’t use their own accounts (but would pay for one if they had to).
Table of Contents
- Who Is Streaming & What Are They Watching?
- Who’s Paying for Streaming Subscriptions?
- How Much Revenue are Streaming Services Missing Out On?
Who Is Streaming & What Are They Watching?
Americans consumed about 15 million years’ worth of streaming content in 2021, according to Nielsen data, as the Covid-19 pandemic entered its second year. In December 2021 alone, Americans streamed more than 180 billion minutes of content – nearly 400,000 years’ worth.
Our data indicates that about nine in 10 U.S. adults use streaming services, a figure that roughly holds steady from our 2021 analysis. That equates to nearly 215 million adults who consume streaming content across the country. The percentage of all U.S. adults who stream is slightly lower in 2022 than 2021, but this is due to population growth.
Estimated number and percentage of U.S. adults who use streaming services
|Year||Streamers||% of all U.S. adults|
Source: Survey of 1,000 Americans and U.S. Census Bureau/Pew Research Center data
And while the amount of content available and the number of streaming services has continued rising, Netflix remains by far the most popular platform among those who stream. Ninety-two percent of streamers watch Netflix, up from 90 percent last year. Most other platforms also gained viewership, with Hulu and Disney+ both rising by six percentage points compared to 2021. Our 2022 analysis included newcomers Peacock and Paramount+ for the first time.
Percentage of streamers using platform by year
Note: 2021 survey did not include Peacock or Paramount+
Nielsen’s streaming service ratings reveal Netflix’s continued dominance. According to the ratings company, 12 of the top 15 original shows on streaming platforms were created by Netflix. Users streamed around 48 billion minutes of “Lucifer,” “Squid Game,” and “The Great British Baking Show” combined.
There are signs that Neftlix’s dominance may be waning, though. The outlook for new subscribers is less-than-rosy, with growth of just under three million new subscribers projected for the first quarter of 2022. This comes after the platform fell short of its subscriber growth expectations in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Which Platforms Are People Mooching Most?
What is mooching, exactly? We define subscription mooching as using the login and password for someone outside the household of the watcher. Notably, this excludes people who watch using an account in the name of their roommate, parent, spouse, or some other person who lives in the same household.
People are still borrowing access to a staggering number of accounts – an estimated 86 million (compared to 87 million in 2021).
In 2022, the average moocher borrowed 1.6 logins from someone living outside their household. For the second year in a row, people were most likely to use someone else’s login to view Disney+ and HBO Max programs. And compared to 2021, most platforms’ mooching rate declined slightly, while it held steady for Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
The most popular platforms for subscription mooching in 2022 are HBOMax, where you can watch “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus”, and Disney+, the home of new hits like “Encanto” and “The Beatles: Get Back”.
Platforms With the Most Freeloaders
Percentage of viewers using account belonging to someone outside their household
Slightly fewer people mooched Netflix accounts this year compared to last. There was widespread suspicion that Netflix would begin cracking down on password sharing in 2021 after users received security messages regarding sharing their passwords with people outside their households. The platform has sought to reassure users that it doesn’t intend to keep people from sharing passwords with their family members.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons for people to share streaming logins comes down to dollars and cents. Amazon Prime Video and Hulu both increased their prices in 2021, and Netflix hiked its prices in early 2022. Even if you subscribe to the cheapest possible tiers, which often include ads, paying for all seven platforms included in our research costs around $54 per month. As the economic impacts of the pandemic drag on, it’s no wonder that some people might ask to share login credentials to stream the latest shows.
|Platform||2022 minimum monthly price|
But just because you have a borrowed login, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to watch anything. That’s because most streaming platforms have limits when it comes to the number of screens going at the same time.
For example, Netflix’s basic plan, its cheapest at $9.99 per month, limits watchers to one screen at a time, while Hulu’s $6.99 minimum plan lets you have two screens going at the same time. Hulu’s live TV tier also offers an add-on for unlimited screens at a cost of $9.99 per month. A majority of platforms — Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+ — cap viewing at three simultaneous screens.
|Platform||Maximum simultaneous screens|
|* Limits based on subscription tier|
What’s the True Cost of Subscription Mooching?
Given the expanding number of streaming platforms and their rising costs, our research shows that if people lost access to an account they borrowed from someone else, many of them would simply stop watching.
Still, others would purchase their own subscription if their borrowed login access was cut off. In 2022, this rate was highest for Paramount+. Forty-five percent of people who currently use a Paramount+ login from someone outside their house would buy their own if their current access was cut off. Prime was on the other end of the spectrum, with just 21 percent of moochers reporting that they’d buy their own subscription if they could no longer borrow login credentials. Compared to 2021, people were generally less likely to say they’d buy their own subscriptions if they could no longer mooch off someone outside their household.
Percentage of viewers who would purchase their own plans if they were no longer able to mooch off of someone outside their household, by platform
All told, our analysis indicates there may still be as many as 24 million new accounts from people who use a login from someone outside their house who would consider getting their own if they needed across the seven platforms.
Platforms are losing out on millions of dollars in membership fees: Netflix is losing an estimated $790 million to moochers who would pay up if they had to, and Peacock could be losing around $55 million.
Revenue Lost to Mooched Memberships
Estimated annual subscriptions fees missed by platform due to password sharing
Streaming companies could gain around $2.3 billion in additional membership fees if they cracked down on password sharing. With the pandemic subsiding and in-person activities resuming, this shows it’s unlikely mooching rates will begin to decline in the near future.
The vast majority of American adults watch streaming platforms, and even though most people are no longer isolating at home, it’s reasonable to assume that we will still devote billions of minutes to our favorite streaming shows and movies in 2022. And as long as there is demand for streaming content, mooching (or sharing, if you prefer) will continue.
To gauge the popularity of streaming and specific streaming platforms, we surveyed 790 U.S. adults about their streaming habits, including which platforms they watch and whether they pay for their own subscriptions. The participants were representative of the U.S. population in terms of their genders and ages. We conducted our survey in 2022 via internet-based survey through Momentive. Analysis included Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+.
For our broader analysis of how Americans stream, we used our survey data to extrapolate population data from the U.S. Census Bureau and internet use data from the Pew Research Center. We calculated the amount of money platforms could gain from moochers by calculating the number of people who use the login credentials of someone outside their household who’d be willing to pay if necessary, and multiplying that by the current cost for a basic subscription for each platform.