Ooh Arrr: streaming has lowered video piracy but not if content goes into silos

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jun 27, 2019

via Flickr © spablab (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via Flickr © spablab (CC BY-ND 2.0)

  • Piracy is not the fun game it used to be for consumers...
  • ..and the pirates are pretty-much a dead parrot as a result
  • But if content owners insist on roping off their best bits and asking for more cash, it could turn out that the pirates are only resting (or even just pining for the fjords)

Research by Ampere Analysis shows a steady fall in the proportion of consumers who say that they regularly use pirate sites and services to watch online video. (see diag below). Ampere claims that the three-year period between Q1 2016 and Q1 2019 has seen sharp declines in video piracy in Spain, the US, the Netherlands and France. 

Source: Ampere Analysis

Source: Ampere Analysis

So why the big drop and does this mean that the pirates are sunk?

Perhaps and maybe, according to Richard Broughton, Director at Ampere Analysis. He says that on average, in markets where either catch-up or SVoD online video viewing has risen the most, piracy has experienced the biggest drop. “With the growth in all-you-can-eat legal services, users no longer need to turn to illegitimate sources to get their viewing fix,” he maintains

For instance Spain, traditionally a very high piracy market, has seen a 47 per cent increase in claimed SVoD and catch-up viewing in the three-year period, and almost the same (45%) decrease in the proportion of internet uses regularly turning to pirate services.

But Ampere’s research suggests that just having access to on-demand services isn’t enough, consumers must actually use the services for their usage of piracy sites to be impacted. 

In other words, the content on SVoD and catch-up services needs to be appealing for the audience.

Says Broughton: “The on-demand market is moving into a period of ‘siloisation’ where producer and distributor brands go direct to the consumer, at the same time restricting the amount of content they license to third party services. If the mainstream OTT players have less of the content users want to watch, when they want to watch it, there’s a genuine risk that usage of these SVoD and catch-up services could begin to slump, something the pirate operators will be quick to capitalise on.”

This is a trend that is already being noticed in the US where  the industry is racing to put select collections of content behind paywalls. 

For instance, Comcast NBCUniversal has announced it would be pulling its hit TV show, The Office, from Netflix. To watch it online, viewers will soon need to subscribe to Comcast/NBC's new streaming service, expected to launch sometime next year. This sort of thing is being repeated across the piece.

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