You know the problem. Game of Thrones is on. You’re not home, but you want to watch it so you get your friend’s cable log-in for HBO Go or HBO Now and viola! You’re watching on your phone, tablet or computer.

But now, the cable TV industry — and ESPN, in particular — wants to stop that.

Justin Connolly, ESPN executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing has one word for it calling it “piracy.” He cites an instance when he asked a group of about 50 millennials if they shared passwords and all raised their hands.

Connolly said it’s something the cable industry is struggling with:

“It’s people consuming something they haven’t paid for. The more the practice is viewed with a shrug, the more it creates a dynamic where people believe it’s acceptable. And it’s not.”

Pay TV has lost some three million subscribers due to cord cutting and password sharing has caused the industry even more money. Live sports, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and other popular shows have led to mass password sharing and that has cable and content providers looking for ways to end the practice.

One way to end it is to shrink the number of simultaneous streams on apps. ESPN has already reduced the number of streams on its apps from the same password from ten to five and is looking to drop it further to three.

ESPN is looking at ways to validate viewers when there are high volumes of people watching a big event outside a cable company’s territory.

The whole sharing stems from the concept of TV Everywhere which allows viewers to access their cable shows from outside the home. It was originally unpopular, but now has caught on. It’s estimated that about one-third of cable streams are accessed by those who don’t pay for it and share passwords.

Losses are estimated to be in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion this year alone.

But even as ESPN and other networks are looking to stop the practice, other networks like HBO says it’s aware of password sharing and isn’t worried about it.

So if you’re using a friend’s password, just know that your days of watching cable on your friend’s dime might be coming to an end.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.