It looks as though media pirating information is becoming more and more relevant to distribution and content rights holders. We've talked before about how Netflix monitors torrent activity to find out what's popular amongst moviegoers, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had some interesting things to say about how the allure of free movies might be overshadowed by ease of use. An article from The Verge explores yet another dimension of the piracy discourse: availability of content. How does the availability of certain films affect illegal downloading, and how will this change the future of distribution?
The Verge examines data from a new website called piracydata.com, which lists the top 10 most pirated films of the week from BitTorrent, and determines whether they're available to stream, or to digitally rent or buy. The information gathered is pretty interesting, as well as the question they pose, "Do people turn to piracy when the movies they want to watch are not available legally?"
According to the site, over the past 3 weeks, 53% of the most pirated films have been available digitally (legally) in one form or another, but only 20% have been available to rent or stream. Furthermore, 0% have been on legal streaming sites, like Netflix or Hulu.
Let's take a look at the top 10 films and their availability according to piracydata.com. The 2nd, 3rd and 8th films on the list, White House Down, Elysium, and 2 Guns, though their theatrical run is over, are still unavailable on DVD/Blu-ray/digital download, so their availability is extremely limited. The top spot on the list goes to Pacific Rim, which is available to buy as a Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo, but isn't available on any streaming platforms. In fact -- none of the films on piracydata's list are streaming currently (or at least at the time the data was collected.)
What does all of this data mean? What is the answer to piracydata's question? Based on a very small collection of information, I'd say, yes, it does look as though people turn to piracy when the movies they want aren't available. However, availability is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why people pirate films, as well as where the future of distribution is headed.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said that ever since Netflix launched in Canada 3 years ago, BitTorrent is down 50%. Also, more and more films are being released day and date, meaning they get released in theaters, on DVD/Blu-ray, and VOD platforms on the same day, which indicates that studios are seeing a trend in media consumption. It seems to me that the majority of audiences mainly want three things when it comes to watching movies: they want them affordable, easy to use/consume, and available how and when they want it.
Waiting months for a DVD or Blu-ray to come out can be torture. Ain't nobody got time for that! And even when it does finally come out, few people really want to pay $20+ on one single movie that can get scratched, lost, or eventually become unwatchable. So, the answer must be digital downloads, right? You can rent a movie for a few bucks or buy it outright for around the same amount as a physical copy, but again, those are becoming less attractive options compared to subscription-based VOD platforms like Netflix and Hulu. One of the only things standing in the way of these, as well as other similar services, being a near-perfect option is selection.
Does pirating films through P2P platforms provide the things audiences are looking for when it comes to watching at home? Short answer: yes. It's free, there's a wide selection, and it's easy to use. The catch -- it's illegal. Should the onus fall on the studios to provide more viewing options to customers in hopes that they'll stop pirating their movies? Regardless of opinions, it looks as though the studios are slowly beginning to invest in doing just that.
Would more convenient viewing options entire more people to forgo pirating? What's most important to you when it comes to viewing movies? Price? Ease of use? Availability? Let us know what you think in the comments.