When World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. first launched the WWE streaming network, the company made no effort to limit how many people shared an account.
Technically, at least in the fine print, its customers were prohibited from sharing their accounts, but the company did nothing to actually stop that from happening. One person could pay the $9.99 a month membership fee and give access to a bunch of friends.
This Is Not Netflix
That's not all that different from what industry leader Netflix does. It limits users to two concurrent streams per account, but since it's an on-demand service with no live events, there's nothing stopping subscribers from sharing an account with a few friends unless they have identical viewing habits.
- WWE Network, like Netflix, didn't crack down on account sharing in its early days.
- It has now changed its Terms of Service to forbid sharing.
- Will more fans pony up the $9.95 per month subscriber fee?
WWE Network is a different story. Its chief draws are its monthly special events, formerly pay-per-views, which are must-watch live programming for fans. While Netflix users sharing an account with a handful of people may rarely go over the simultaneous streams limit, it would happen often to WWE Network subscribers during these live shows.
Now, the company has taken steps to end the practice of account sharing, which could lead to more paying subscribers to WWE Network.
Backed by technology that limits access, WWE has finally clamped down on people sharing accounts, according to The Wrestling Observer, the leading industry insider newsletter.
The new policy, which began rolling out March 1 makes it clear that sharing is no longer allowed. Part of the new Terms of Service agreement reads:
Although your WWE Network subscription is accessible on a number of devices, your use is limited to one (1) WWE Network stream on one (1) device at any given time. IF YOU CIRCUMVENT OR ATTEMPT TO CIRCUMVENT ANY OF THE USE RESTRICTIONS IN THESE TERMS, YOUR SUBSCRIPTION WILL BE SUBJECT TO IMMEDIATE TERMINATION AND YOU MAY BE SUBJECT TO LEGAL ACTION. SHARING OF LOGIN INFORMATION, INCLUDING PASSWORDS, IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.
That's a lot of capital letters and stern language, but it gets the company's point across. So does the message "stream limit exceeded," which some subscribers have seen when multiple people attempt to log in on one account, the newsletter reported.
A Free Sample
It's possible that WWE, much like Netflix, understood that people were going to share accounts and allowed it to happen for a time as a marketing tactic. In theory, a percentage of the consumers who got to sample the product as users of their friends' accounts will see a value in paying for it now that the free ride has ended.
Changing this policy is unlikely to hurt the company because those people who were paying for one account and sharing it with a bunch of friends knew they were doing something at least quasi-wrong. Now, if those friends are WWE fans, they will have to pay up. That won't cause a huge bump in subscriptions but it could cause a meaningful jump.
World Wrestling Entertainment has grown to a global audience of 800 million for its pay-per-view, video on demand, and live events. Its WWE Network alone had about 2.1 million subscribers as of 2020. In addition to subscriber fees, it is paid about $470 million a year by Comcast Corp., USA Network, and Fox for television rights.
The network drew a record audience of 967 million viewers worldwide for its annual WrestleMania event in early April 2020.
Daniel Kline owns shares of World Wrestling Entertainment,