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Subscription sharing on rise amid streaming boom

July 6, 2023 - 15:18 By Choi Jae-hee


Ahn Hye-ji, 29, used to spend 13,500 won ($10.32) per month on Netflix, but has recently cancelled her subscription. Instead, she has found a way to pay for the streaming service on an hourly basis, which costs only a fraction of the monthly subscription fee.

“There are many reality shows and drama series that are streamed exclusively on certain platforms. It is a waste of money to subscribe to so many different platforms," Ahn said.

She found people sharing their streaming accounts for an hourly fee via the messaging app KakaoTalk.

A screenshot shows an open chat room named “OTT rental service” on KakaoTalk, where people can rent access to various streaming platforms for a couple of hours or a week. (KakaoTalk)

In one open chatroom on the app, titled “OTT rental service,” renting someone’s account for Netflix, Disney+, Wavve, or Tving costs just 100 won for an hour and 500 won for the whole day. The chatroom has over 350 members, and the owner of the accounts changes the password after the lending period is over.

“I found the account-sharing scheme to be quite reasonable,” Ahn said.

Ahn added that, thanks to the chatroom, she has been watching Disney+ for two hours a day after work, which costs just 1400 won a week.

As the cost of living continues to rise, more Koreans are turning to subscription sharing to save money on streaming content while gaining wider access to different platforms.

On the neighborhood-based secondhand marketplace platform Karrot Market, one can easily find postings looking for someone to split subscription fees for streaming platforms.

One posting suggested a deal in which four people would split the price of a 99,000 won yearlong subscription to Disney+.

A screenshot shows an ad on Karrot looking for individuals to share a yearlong subscription to Disney+. (Karrot Market)

There are even mobile apps designed to connect people for the purpose of subscription sharing.

Among them is Pickle+, which matches individuals to create a group of four to share one account. The app even handles the division of the bill. For instance, if one buys access to Tving via Pickle+, the app just charges one fourth of the subscription fee, by automatically grouping them with three other users of Tving.

Of course, account sharing has created a bit of a headache for streaming platforms.

Netflix is said to be mulling a crackdown on password-sharing, although no action has been taken in Korea yet.

Sharing accounts with someone outside the household violates the user agreement of most streaming platforms, but the services have yet to take legal action.

"Netflix always strives to create a safe environment for its members to enjoy our services. We allow each account to have multiple profiles so that families living in the same house can watch different programs simultaneously," a Netflix Korea official told The Korea Herald.

"However, our terms of service clearly state that sharing accounts with others who are not part of the same family (for commercial purposes) is not allowed, which may cause disruption to one's service."

Meanwhile, the usage rate of streaming platforms in South Korea rose to 72.5 percent last year, a sharp climb from 69.5 percent recorded the previous year, according to the Korea Communications Commission.

YouTube was the most popular, with its usage rate at 66.1 percent, followed by Netflix at 31.5 percent.