Piracy Sees 'Unprecedented' Pandemic Bounce, But So Does All Media Consumption

from the maybe-try-competing-on-price dept

With a large part of the planet on lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, streaming video consumption has seen explosive growth. Streaming platform Mux this week issued a study stating that during one three-week period measured by the company, streaming video usage overall jumped 239%.

UK piracy tracking firm Muso TNT says they've also seen "unprecedented" traffic to movie streaming websites around the world in the last few months. The firm found that in many countries, the kind of piracy traffic traditionally reserved for weekends is now the norm during most weeks:

"Data provided to Motherboard by London-based Muso TNT show that between February 20 and March 20, visits to pirated movie websites by users in both the U.S. and UK jumped 31 percent. The data shows similar growth in Spain (35 percent), Portugal (37 percent), India (33 percent), and Germany (30 percent), with Italy the highest overall at 50 percent."

In just one month in the U.S. alone, the firm tracked 137 million page views to more than 19,000 websites offering streaming and BitTorrent access to pirated films, and more than 601 million page views of sites offering access to pirated TV content. The company says its data originates from an “industry-leading website traffic data provider.”

None of this should be particularly surprising given that pirates are some of the heaviest consumers and buyers of movies, films, and television content.

But it's worth noting that piracy, and BitTorrent use in general, had already been seeing a bounce even before the pandemic started. Why? While streaming is certainly cheaper with better customer service than traditional cable TV options, the rise of a universe of exclusivity silos has started to confuse and annoy some customers. With every broadcaster and their uncle now flooding the sector, hunting and pecking between a laundry list of exclusives and ever-shifting licensing agreements has become frustrating (aka "subscription fatigue"), driving some of these users back to the simplicity of piracy.

"Piracy is a level playing field,” Muso wrote in one recent white paper. “No walled data-garden, no exclusivity, no windowing and no theatrical release. It’s all there: consumption with no barriers."

Sure, this "subscription fatigue" is a minority of subscribers and not the end of the world, given streaming revenues are exploding. But pandemic or no, there's still some familiar lessons here about viewing piracy as a competitor or as a useful gauge of customer dissatisfaction. And based on the kind of price hikes we're still seeing at major cable TV providers, these remain challenging ideas for many traditional cable and broadcast execs to wrap their heads around.

Muso found that while visits to illegal movie streaming websites have surged, visits to pirated TV stream outfits hasn't seen the same level of growth, in large part due to the suspension of most sports leagues. With sports, one of the few things that keeps people subscribing to traditional pay TV, several studies on cord cutters have shown that the cord cutting trend is likely to accelerate -- with bloated TV bundles a likely early casualty as a growing number of folks experience financial hardwhip:

"Considering the financial crisis element of the pandemic, something has to give for the consumer,” Chatterley said. “If they discover piracy now the question is do they go back to multiple subscriptions?"

So while many things have certainly changed, the same core issues still apply. Companies still need to compete with the simplicity and affordability of piracy if they want to hinder its growth. That's particularly true of the traditional cable sector, which, for the better part of the last decade, has treated competing on price as a some kind of deadly contagion in its own right. Just because an entertainment industry executive doesn't think its fair that they have to compete with privacy has never mattered -- and still doesn't.

Filed Under: content, covid-19, lockdown, media, pandemic, piracy, streaming


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2020 @ 6:55am

    greed and control is what the entertainment industries want, coupled with the complete takeover of the use of the Internet! these industries screwed up big time by thinking that the Internet would never be the success story it is and missed the opportunity of being in on it at the very start. now, they're playing catchup but doing so in the wrong way because all they see is people doing what THEY want to do and not what these industries want, would like or can force them to do! web site blocking in the USA is being discussed in Congressional meetings with the entertainment industries and they are pushing like mad to get it implemented! anyone who thinks this has been bad elsewhere need to ignore the results because Hollywood, the MPAA, MPA, RIAA, whichever section you look at, are all after the same thing and anyone who thinks that once site blocking is in, things will stop there, think again! the fight to stop people using the Internet for anything they want will continue and when won, we will be limited to doing only what these assholes say we can do!! the really worrying thing, even up to and including what is happening at the moment is that no one in any government is admitting what is going on and the outcome wanted, mainly because they are doing as much as ever they can to assist the industries achieve their aim! why? because they dont want the world knowing what 2 faced, lying, cheating, self-serving, money-grabbing fuckers they are, how much they are accepting in backing the industries and how little they care about their voters or justice! we are at the bottom of the tree, people and dont forget it!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 7:02am

    'Next to study: The rise of cabin fever.'

    Anyone trying to spin this as some sort of 'look at how terrible piracy has become!'(and I'm sure there will be people who try that) really need to be laughed out of the room and soundly mocked.

    Restrict people to their houses, constrain if not eliminate their income so that they have to be much more selective in how they spend their money and it's pretty obvious that the 'lots of entertainment that doesn't require money that might be better spent on food' option is going to see a serious uptick.

    Add that on top of the already existing issue of content fragmentation/exclusivity where while once people might have to sign up for one or two services to get everything they want now they have to sign up for an ever increasing number, each with their own price tag and hoops to jump through and the only people who should be surprised by this sort of thing are those that are heavily in denial or that have paid absolutely no attention to the subject at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 7:39am

    Re: 'Next to study: The rise of cabin fever.'

    I am fully expecting some maximalist dork to express the thought that 'creators' still need to eat' in these tough times, even more than pesky users. In their heads, those 'creators' actually mean the executives of the copyright holding companies that have never actually created anything, except the the current copyright mess. Oh, right, they may have also 'created' some inventive ways of withholding income to actual creators in such a way that the feathering of their own nest looks legitimate, in similar ways they go about withholding taxes due the government.

    The whole silo schema is about retaining a larger portion of income without having to share it with broadcasters and cable companies. In the end they will find that they are holding on so tight in order to control their 'product' that that they crush the system. The rate of change is ever increasing and it took X amount of time for broadcasting to succumb to cable. It will take less time for cable to succumb to silos (which seems to be happening fairly fast), and even less still for silos to succumb to whatever is next.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Norahc (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 8:13am

    Considering some IP maximalists view piracy as anything they are not being paid for, I'm a little leary of accepting their claims at face value. Even so called "piracy" sites offer a lot of content that does not violate copyright.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Naughty Autie, 28 Apr 2020 @ 8:27am

    "But it's worth noting that piracy, and BitTorrent use in general, had already been seeing a bounce even before the pandemic started."

    Nevertheless, it doesn't help matters that only food shops and pharmacies/drugstores are 'essential' under lockdown guidelines, and not everybody has the ability to make online payments and therefore pay for streaming services. If you close down HMV et al., people will look to extralegal sources for new movies, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2020 @ 1:08pm

    Think there is any way to solve the piracy problem?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 1:41pm

    Re:

    Depends on how you define 'solve'.

    If you mean 'get rid of it entirely', no, because that's never going to happen, there will always be some people who will go the free route rather than paying.

    If you mean 'reduce the numbers of copyright infringement and increase sales' sorta[1], and it's actually really easy: Make a good product, treat your customers like people and show them respect so they like you and want to support you, and offer said product at a fair rate in a reasonable way. Do that and history shows that the amount of infringement tends to drop quite a bit as people are happy to pay a reasonable rate for content that they enjoy.

    [1] As noted in the third link those that engage in copyright infringement also tend to buy more content than non-infringers, so simply reducing the number of infringers on it's own might not actually be the best goal, and instead the focus should be on increasing sales, which could be entirely separate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2020 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm talking about a good solution to the pirate radio/cyber terror problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 4:49pm

    this again

    People aren't going back to many subscriptions. They'll opt for 2 or 3 that have what they want and pirate or ignore the rest. This will hammer down the field to about 4 major platforms and the winners will eat the losers. AppleTV+ still has to prove itself. HBO Max may disappoint. Quibi, Peacock and CBS All Access won't survive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re:

    All the streaming platforms are trying to create "a good product" but the problem is, what people want is huge volumes of content (expensive) and big famous brands like Marvel and Star Wars (expensive, and there aren't many for sale anymore).

    So the winners in the streaming wars will be Netflix, just because of their huge head start; Amazon, because they don't really need streaming to turn a profit for them; Disney with their huge brands; and then it's a battle between Apple with their massive war chest and AT&T with their big brands.

    If Apple runs around buying up brands like James Bond and Star Trek, they might succeed. And they need AT&T to make some boneheaded mistakes.

    Piracy will continue unabated, it really isn't a factor here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Re: 'Next to study: The rise of cabin fever.'

    Broadcasters and cable companies are on their way out. The silo streaming system is taking over because paying customers are rewarding it with their money. Well, rewarding the upper echelons that is. I don't expect many of the silos to remain standing.

    Whatever is next, that's hard to say. My hunch is that Netflix will suddenly find out that Disney's model is even better than theirs, since Disney can deliver its brands on streaming, theaters, merchandise (a big moneymaker), theme parks etc. Obviously this is on hold now but it won't be on hold forever.

    The other disrupter might be a true metaservice that offers customized payment plans that cut across services. That would require some big tech company with industry clout to pull off: Google, Apple or Amazon.

    So, the next disrupter is the Disney style brand ecosystem with streaming as the nerve center; or the true metaservice. Flip a coin,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 Apr 2020 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re: Re: 'Next to study: The rise of cabin fever.'

    ...all assuming that the major contenders don't pull their usual shtick of listening to one copyright cultist too many and manage to snatch defeat once more from the jaws of victory.

    The stakeholders, including a few of the usual old suspects, could have done Netflix before netflix did, owning the market - and didn't.

    I'm not seeing either of your hypothetical outcomes as likely. More like the stakeholders, disney above all, will simply fragment the ecosystem again, and will keep doing so until - once again - the consumer shrugs and dons his pirate tricorn.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 Apr 2020 @ 5:45am

    Re:

    "Even so called "piracy" sites offer a lot of content that does not violate copyright."

    Like the actual torrent or magnet links, you mean?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 29 Apr 2020 @ 5:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What pirate radio/cyber terror problem?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 Apr 2020 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re:

    You forgot "convenient".

    That's the current problem with the fragmented media on offer contributing the most to piracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2020 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I was hit at as part of a large and long terrorist attack.

    There was a lot of torture, though a lot of it is reduced. I still need help with that. Lots of people died, sept 11 is involved and it was a bad one.

    I need help with what the current things happening from the source of it

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2020 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    not terrorists intentionally doing terrorism, i need help from the source of the cyber problem to solve any of the problem

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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