Like Netflix, China’s Tencent Video Cracks Down on Password Sharing

Like Netflix, China’s Tencent Video Cracks Down on Password Sharing

Tencent Video appears to be taking a page out of the Netflix playbook, taking steps to clamp down on password sharing

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Hayley Zhao
12:36 PM HKT, Thu February 16, 2023 2 mins read

Are you frustrated that Netflix is clamping down on password sharing? Audiences in China are currently experiencing the same exasperation with the Chinese streaming platform Tencent Video.

On February 13, a netizen identifying herself as Wei logged onto the popular Chinese streaming platform and realized that her account had been frozen for exceeding the device limit. A pop-up notice informed her that her account would automatically be unlocked after 30 minutes and suggested upgrading her package to one with a higher device limit if she wanted to access her account immediately.

tencent video, netflix, password sharing

A screengrab of the pop-up notice Tencent Video users receive after reaching the platform’s device limit. Image via Weibo

She contacted Tencent’s customer service and was informed that the five-device cap was clearly stated in the platform’s terms and conditions. To unfreeze her account, she would have to unlink a few devices or, as the notice suggested, sign up for a higher subscription level.

According to the customer service agent, Tencent users who fail to keep their number of logged-on devices below the limit for a second time will be blocked for 24 hours. On the third offense, the penalty will increase to seven days. Furthermore, the company stated that it had the right to revoke membership for anyone who had broken their contract more than three times.

A Tencent Video subscriber for five years, Wei had never been penalized for logging into multiple devices previously.

She took to Weibo, China’s top microblogging site, to share her experience, which has become a trending topic; related hashtags have amassed more than 330 million views at the time of writing. Many netizens have called Tencent’s behavior shameless and unnecessary.

“They could have automatically logged me out of one of the devices or notified me to unlink some. Freezing our accounts will only drive users away,” commented one Weibo user.

Some have also questioned the legitimacy of account freezing, claiming they were never informed about the policy.

Apparently, Tencent had sent out a service agreement update on January 12, 2023. The notice mentions that SVIP members — subscribers of the company’s highest subscription level — were allowed up to eight devices. However, when a reporter from the state-run newspaper Changjiang Daily asked when the five-device limit clause was added, customer service failed to provide a direct answer.

Based on snapshots of Tencent’s service agreement page captured by the digital archive platform Wayback Machine, RADII discovered that the five-device limit could be found in an agreement dating back to 2018, which also states that Tencent reserves the right to suspend or terminate service for users who violate device limits. However, this is the first time that Tencent has reportedly taken action by freezing user accounts.

Regardless of when the device limit was implemented, many netizens are still annoyed that streaming services are raising subscription prices annually, implementing new restrictions on password sharing or device limits, and encouraging customers to upgrade their subscription level.

Another streaming giant in China, iQiyi, also landed in hot water when it limited user access earlier this month. A customer in South China’s Guangdong province sued the platform for limiting video resolution to 480p for basic-level subscribers if they want to project content on TV. To enjoy programs with higher image quality, users have no choice but to upgrade their packages by forking out more.

“First iQiyi, now Tencent. Who’s next? As your core customers, we are not the reason you have trouble generating revenue. You guys would be better off if you just stopped releasing garbage content instead of limiting our access,” complained a Weibo user.

In recent years, U.S.-based streaming platforms, including Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+, have also struggled with stagnant revenue and subscription growth.

And Chinese companies like Tencent and iQiyi are not alone in coming up with ways to generate revenue: The once ad-free streaming giant Netflix launched a new basic package with ads last November and announced its plan to crack down on password sharing earlier this month — a total reversal of its memorable ‘Love is sharing a password’ marketing strategy back in 2017.

Netflix’s anti-password-sharing plan has already been rolled out in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain.

Cover image via Depositphotos

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