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SALT LAKE CITY — While major broadcasters are scrambling to figure out how to bring customers back to traditional television, a new group of consumers is causing a revenue problem.
They're called cord nevers, and unlike cable cutters or Zero TVers, cord nevers don't set up TV when they move out on their own. Cord nevers are identified as younger, Web-savvy and often transient enough to not own televisions or subscribe to cable.
Instead, they're sharing accounts with friends, families or even strangers to get access to subscriptions like HBO Go, Netflix and Hulu. TV providers are beginning to fear this group may never pay for cable after getting used to streaming it online for free, or at least for cheaper than $70 a month.
In an informal poll, Buzzfeed found the majority of its employees didn't have their own HBO Go account, but used whomever's account they could get their hands on, from their parents' to "college roommate's boyfriends' dad."
The poll's author, John Herrman, contrasted HBO Go's lack of restrictions to Netflix's streaming limits. While Netflix allows subscribers to register six devices, only two can be streaming at the same time.
"It also seems like a pretty serious problem: while our office is fairly young and not representative of HBO's broader customer base, it is representative of a rising generation of people who 1) like watching HBO shows and 2) cannot fathom paying for them," Herrman wrote.
When asked about this discrepancy among subscribers and the service, HBO admitted to knowing about the piggybacking but doesn't have a way to curtail it.
"The best business approach at this time is in the business model we currently have," Jeff Cusson, senior vice president for corporate affairs, said in an interview with the New York Times. Cusson said he doesn't view sharing "as a persuasive problem at this time."
College students are a good chunk of the cord never demographic. Living in cramped dorms where TV may not even be an option, Harvard has taken to streaming as a service to its students.
Time Warner Cable recently partnered with Trivli, a software being used to stream shows, like HBO's Girls or Game of Thrones, to Harvard students. The school has become a breeding ground for innovation, and Trivli is no exception. In 2009, Tuan Ho and Nicholas Krasney founded Trivli in their dorm room, and now the school foots the bill for its students to use the software's streaming service on campus.
You know anyone under the age of 30 isn't going to go out and get a cable subscription. So they represent a massive audience and the opportunity to create a completely new ecosystem.
–Chet Kanoja, Aereo CEO
Other companies are working on similar streaming models; ABC is reportedly developing a live streaming mobile app, which would bring subscribers 24/7 access to the network.
However, it's not just cable networks working streaming into their delivery plan. Aereo streams video from big networks like News Corp. The controversial service was taken to court, and recently won an appeal against News Corp. over the legality of its operations.
"You know anyone under the age of 30 isn't going to go out and get a cable subscription," Chet Kanoja, Aereo CEO, said in an interview with CNBC. "So they represent a massive audience and the opportunity to create a completely new ecosystem."
Kanoja said Aereo is targeting the cord never demographic, adding that half of the company's subscribers have never paid for cable.