Why streaming services need to re-think authentication Why streaming services need to re-think authentication
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Why streaming services need to re-think authentication

Why streaming services need to re-think authentication

The practice of sharing online passwords to streaming services costs US businesses approximately $25bn in lost revenue


Last year set a record for new streaming subscriptions, increasing to 217.6 million in Q3 2020 compared to the same period the previous year. By 2026, there will be 15 million video-on-demand subscriptions in the region. Interestingly, earlier this year, a study showed that the average Netflix user in the UAE had spent a total of 37 days, or 53,357 minutes streaming tv shows and films on the platform.

Despite being primarily driven by the pandemic, these high subscription growth rates have resulted in a streaming boom that will only continue to grow in the coming years. However, the surge in popularity of streaming services has highlighted some of the issues many have yet to address. The most significant is seats or profile management on user accounts.

Users can currently access platforms from a maximum of three devices. However, this does not prevent them from sharing their account information with friends and family members who can take advantage of the extra seats for free.

According to Citi equity analyst Jason Bazinet, the practice of sharing online passwords to streaming and other subscription video-on-demand services costs US businesses approximately $25bn in lost revenue.

While this is common practice among users, it has a significant financial impact on streaming giants. But, when organisations decide to address this issue, how can they do so without jeopardising the customer experience?

Using contextual data and behavioral biometrics to authenticate users
One solution is to use behavioural biometrics to ensure that the paying user logs on to the service via any of their devices. This type of cybersecurity will also allow streaming companies to identify families using the service through a single account and offer them an upgrade to a family package instead.

Behavioural biometrics considers millions of contextual data points when determining whether a user is genuine. So, even if a user is in an unusual location – for example, on vacation or on a business trip – how they use and swipe their phone can positively identify them. That means streaming services won’t have to worry about accidentally blocking a paying user because they’re in a different location.

Behavioural biometrics is a passive form of authentication technology that isn’t intrusive to the user’s experience and does not add friction to the user’s journey. For example, data such as typing speed and pressure are analysed in real-time when entering a username and password, so no additional steps are required (as they are with physical biometrics).

As a result, behavioural biometrics can be helpful at any point in the customer journey, which means users won’t have to prove their identity every time they log into their streaming services because the technology will recognise them automatically.

Protecting privacy
Because it uses the contextual data points of a consumer’s behaviour to authenticate an individual’s identity and their data can be obfuscated, behavioural biometrics is a privacy-preserving, non-intrusive way to authenticate users by its very nature. It is a less intrusive method of recognising users than fingerprints or facial recognition. With privacy being such a hot topic these days, streaming services will benefit in the long run by establishing digital trust with their users.

Streamers swipe to safety

Regulating streaming service access without jeopardising user trust could be difficult. We’re all aware that users share their login information with their friends and family. However, as the market becomes saturated, streaming services will become increasingly financially damaging, as their growth will eventually plateau.

With the increasing number of new services entering the market each year, streaming service organisations must find ways to convert those free seats into paid seats, and this will only become more important as time goes on.

As a result, it’s an issue that needs to be handled with extreme caution. Behavioural biometrics allows businesses to solve this problem without causing consumer friction or jeopardising their privacy.

Saeed Ahmad is the managing director – Middle East and North Africa at Callsign

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