October 19, 2013

Will More Convenient Viewing Options Deter Audiences from Pirating Films?

piratingIt 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 DownElysium, 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 Rimwhich 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.

Legal availability of the most pirated movies -- piracydata.com

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.

Links:

Is it easier to pirate movies or stream them? New website aims to find out -- The Verge

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of the Week -- piracydata.com

Your Comment

34 Comments

For me the value of a DVD is the extras. When done well they really do offer value but if we move to a download only paradigm then all that extra content will disappear. People just won't bother with it. Which is a shame.

October 19, 2013 at 9:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Majority of the people who find value in the dvd extras are film peeps. The world is much more bigger than our limited view of it as film makers. The great value in the dvd should come from the actual completed film itself. For everything else there's MasterCard or visa. No, just kidding. Couldn't resist that joke. For everything else, there is the wealthiest pool of information ever created since the history of mankind called the internet. More valuable than just one dvd extra info

October 19, 2013 at 10:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

Not true.
When DVD took off, extras were then marketed at the casual watcher - fluffy EPK crap that serves the lowest common denominator.

You have to go back to Laserdisc times to see when extras truly meant something, and were squarely aimed at the film buff.

October 19, 2013 at 11:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fresno Bob

I see. So when was the last time your grandma or relative, who isn't associated with the film industry bought a dvd specifically for the extras? Apparently by your statement, those of us who watched vhs growing up missed out cos we didn't see the director explain his vision at the end of the vhs tape. I mean by that logic, the audience should wait after the credits at the theatre to hear the director commentaries
Like I said it's only film peeps that will find true value in the dvd extras. Fortunately enough someone in rural Africa today can ask Shane Hulburt, Dave Mullen, Roger Deakins etc and get customized answer appropriate to their predicament

October 19, 2013 at 12:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

As I said, not true. DVD extras these days are aimed at your mum and sister. Not at cinephiles.
The general content is "Oh, Hugh Grant was lovely to work with".
Back on laserdisc, the content was "I used a 50mm lens because..."/

October 19, 2013 at 12:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fresno Bob

And only because I happen to be following from rural Africa right now, around here you will also be able to buy a dvd copy of any pirate movie the moment it gets uploaded to the www for less then 2$ a piece (no commentary on those) and it will be the only way to ever catch a glimpse cause you won't get an original even if you wanted as this is not even considered a market...

October 20, 2013 at 1:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Totally agree with Bob.

Anyone who really enjoys watching films will be interested to see how their favorite films are made. And yes, I agree with Robyn, it would be a real shame to see that tradition die off - not just for film makers and cinefiles, but also for regular film watchers.

October 25, 2013 at 9:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Terence Kearns

From what I see, when I look at file sharing in India [where I'm from] - the main reason for piracy is that stuff is free or cheap. I see it with films. I see it with software. The economics are the main reason.
Whether its downloading off torrents or buying pirated DVDs [yes theres tons of people who sell them here], saving that extra buck is the main motivating factor.

October 19, 2013 at 10:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DDR

I like to have the movie on my HDD. I pay a movie ticket for the experience of going to the cinema and watching a film there. There's no way I'm paying 10 bucks to see something on my TV or PC screen, no way I'd pay a dime for that. The way I see it, Netflix charges just for the service, not the content. It's the fact that you can watch them online, all in one place, with your search history etc. Convenience.

I understand that Hollywood needs to squeeze the lemon even after it's dry. But it really does not make any sense. This and the war on drugs are the exact same thing. The denial about things that are happening, and will continue happening no matter legislation. They should adapt to reality.

October 19, 2013 at 10:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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maghoxfr

Yeah, in other words you want that multi million dollars movies are distribuited for free because you don't want to pay, wake up

October 19, 2013 at 8:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marcus

I would say that you are the one who sould wake up. Denying reality is not sane and that is what you and the industry are doing.

October 20, 2013 at 9:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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maghoxfr

yeah, the industry is not aiming for broke people who can't spare 6 bucks to rent a movie. People who brags about piracy usually are happy to pay 20 bucks for a shitty brunch in a diner or 120 bucks/month for lame cable TV services. Netflix has a great formula, affordable service but not free nonetheless. With their millions of subscribers they can leverage the price. I wish rentals were cheaper but I know it will never be free. So don't embarrass yourself.

October 20, 2013 at 12:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marcus

The problem for me is that I don't want physical boxes around the house.
But I also don't like buying digital downloads as you don't feel like you've actually owned anything.

The perfect answer for me was Netflix/Spotify.
I want to watch a film, I turn it on and just flick through until I find something to watch.
It takes away any kind of need for illegal downloading. There is always something new to watch with Netflix on tap.

Flip side is, since I got Spotify 5 years ago - I haven't bought a single music CD. Not one.
Not good for artists, unless they change with the times and realise this is 99% of their market in the future.

October 19, 2013 at 11:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fresno Bob

I find the opposite with Spotify - I used to buy at least one CD a week and plenty of them I've not listened to more than once. With spotify I can find good stuff that I actually like then buy the CD and get some actual use out of it. It's a handy place to find new things for the collection, for me.

October 25, 2013 at 8:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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James

Not entirely of course, but more people will be paying for entertainment (if it's really entertainment, not PoS)

October 19, 2013 at 12:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

IMO, this might mean very quick turnaround time from the theatrical premiers and the availability on VOD. If the lag comes down to 4-6 weeks, it should also enable the distributors to double-dip with their original marketing campaign. What one might see is something similar to the old video rental market - a movie still playing in theaters may go for $20; a month later, the price comes down even further to $15; three months later, it's on for $10; half a year, it's on Netflix and Amazon for free (with a monthly subscription). The habit of "watching it on a computer" will also diminish as everything will be connected to the internet.
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As to India or many East European and Asian markets, there's obviously no copyright enforcement. Russia has been like that for the last 30 years (even as the USSR, where the tapes had to be smuggled in) but these days the revenues available to the "legitimate" film companies appear to exceed those controlled by the organized crime. That changes the relative amounts of bribes offered to the government by the competing entities and the enforcement of copyright begins to take place.

October 19, 2013 at 12:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Maybe film companies will explore advertising options with the torrent hosting sites, so that every time something is uploaded an ad is embedded with that specific name or product that advertisers pay for, like hulu for torrents. Then they could charge torrents a fee to host the movies (FAR in ADVANCE), like movie thetres, and the torrents sites could make legit profits from advertisers as well as google, and Technorati(like thetres do off of concessions). Basically set it up like a DIGITAL movie Theatre only, any one can come and watch, but there will be previews, ads, and purchase options. OR better yet, they could allow like - Coca Cola to SPONSOR like 10,000 free downloads for 10 days or something. Like xbox does with free game content from time to time.

October 19, 2013 at 12:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I've said it once here and I will say it again the biggest problem is human nature.
Once the user no longer has a moral problem with SHARING (stealing) files, memory cards, hard drives, then the industry is doomed.
Unfortunately we have tipped that point. The worldwide audience now has no ethical problem sharing in the workplace via memory sticks and externals movies and television series en TB masse.
It is accepted, fait accompli.
Sadly, those who work in media and entertainment are the biggest culprits stealing intellectual property.

October 19, 2013 at 3:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

No because the more convenient options will 1) never have a good selection and 2) sometimes their quality isn't that good either, eg. Barton Fink on Canadian netflix is the wrong aspect ratio right now, couple other films the subtitles are half cut off.

It would be great if every movie ever made was in the same online system and the versions were great, but that is not going to happen. I think DVDs were actually a great method of distribution. Obviously times change and there is no going back, but I think we'll remember the DVD era just like we do the other eras of film distribution. Not sure we are going to get better than what we've had before.

October 19, 2013 at 3:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jesus christ guys, films are still making hundreds of millions of dollars! Like seriously, you have to be out of your mind to be trying to back up the mega corperations because they are losing a quick buck. The greed here is disgusting~ "Oh no! we're losing a few million to piracy! Quick, make a law that costs even more to put into place and maintain so we can get our total profit back to 300 Million!" Not only did this article overlook greed being a massive factor, it also barely dove into the whole "it's free" thing.

Would I watch a SD film streaming on my crap internet for money or download an HD movie for free? No brainer.

It's not complicated guys. It's no big mystery. Piracy, iTunes, Netflix are all equally convenient, but the only difference is price.

October 19, 2013 at 4:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

The movie industry is it's own worse enemy producing regurgitated lowest common denominator junk with a small proportion of excellent movies each year, you know, the ones you'd actually watch more than once.

Do they really expect the masses to buy the 20$ DVD or Bluray or even digiital download for that junk you'd store in your home taking up space, not ever watching twice. What options other than that for movies that have a vague interest because they've been hyped so much but you suspect them to be junk anyway.

Pirated disposable low quality copy or a monthly outlay to watch as much as you like, from the options available at low cost. Disposable junk at disposable prices and on comodity hardware like a cheap tablet or laptop, who needs a puka copy even for that.

For those of us who prefer to watch a quality movie on a quality screen in the dim lit comfort of our home we pay for movies that are watchable repeatedly are worth getting a puka copy and enjoying many times.

My 2 cents.

October 19, 2013 at 5:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DaveD

Spot on. Was going to post but your sums it up. I downloaded four movies last week. Three were junk and one was brilliant (man from nowhere). Guess what bluray I bought to suppport (somewhat I understand overhead) them.

I buy everything I like.

My friend says he likens the current industry setup to an expensive resturaunt that asks you to "pay first" with no guarentee that they will try to make a decent meal. Doesnt work that way does it? You eat (they work their ass off to make you happy) and you reward them.

October 20, 2013 at 12:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Greg egan

"My friend says he likens the current industry setup to an expensive resturaunt that asks you to “pay first” with no guarentee that they will try to make a decent meal. Doesnt work that way does it? You eat (they work their ass off to make you happy) and you reward them."

I don't buy this argument for a second.

Given your restaurant scenario, if you don't like what you ordered, you don't pay them? That's not a thing anywhere. You're right—you don't pay up front when you order a meal, but there is still a unspoken contract that you will pay for what you order. Try all you want, but this idea of "if they please my imperceptible standards, then I will pay them" doesn't work anywhere.

October 25, 2013 at 3:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Amen to what DaveD said...

October 25, 2013 at 9:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Terence Kearns

Another factor-- streaming and digital rental services are relatively young technology vs DVD and other physical media. There are a lot more variables to worry about for the consumer.

P2P is free and sketchy, so you go in knowing it might be crap quality. But at least you didn't throw away a few bucks if the media doesn't meet your expectations.

Netflix may be doing the future market a solid by giving consumers low-cost experience with streaming a reliable service. Building trust, setting standards, showing it's easy. Building this repoire with consumers could totally win people over for a Netflix new release rental service-- I dunno why we haven't see that yet!

October 19, 2013 at 8:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alex

BitTorrent Bundles should actually help to alleviate some of those issues of piracy, as they will take presence over illegal copies of the content, and be obviously a ail able to people who use it as a go to source for content.

October 19, 2013 at 9:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Piracy is good for films. It creates buzz...exposure. the future of indie filmmaking...make films for lower budget then make money via netflix. Some people will pay. Not as many. But this forces more movies to be made for less and to stream w advertisements for free. The industry is shifting. And peopke will still want to go to the theatre to see movies. If they can make the experience cheap and enjoyable. I see the beginnings of a new chain that doesnt have 30 minutes worth of pre movie crap. You walk in you watch 3 trailers you watch the movie.

October 20, 2013 at 7:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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ed david

The brick&mortar chains will be under pressure because they were built for the Hollywood of the 80's and 90's, before the internet and digital cable took off. In many respects, this is similar to what the movie theaters experienced right after WWII, when the nascent home entertainment (mostly in form of the TV but also home audio) took a bite out of the disposable income. Studios aren't married to the theaters either. They need them for the tentpoles but otherwise the slice of the revenues that goes to those participating in the physical distribution is prohibitive for the lower budgeted films.

October 20, 2013 at 10:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Great article!
Availability is 90% of the reason, specifically if you live outside US. Where films take to long to be available or even never get into a far away or small country. Of course studios win a lot of money, but professionals have to get paid for the work they've done.
In my opinion lets make another question. How much we all pay for internet access? Shouldn't those companies contribute financially?

October 20, 2013 at 8:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Vote for Pedro

Ugh. "Audiences" don't pirate films; certain individuals do. The people who download these films aren't the Pirates, either, they are merely the viewing audience. In fact, most people who watch Pirated films don't pay a dime, other than the cost of their internet bill. If I DID pay for a Pirated movie, I could see what the problem is, but I don't, so there's really no issue. Fact is, the studios aren't losing a single dime over piracy, because people simply can't afford movies anymore, so they'll go on the web to find it for free. Studios will use this to say they're losing money on every one of those people who watch it for free, but you can't lose money from someone who wasn't a customer in the first place. These are people who couldn't afford to go to the theatre in the first place, and have no intention of doing so.

Also, most people don't watch movies that people film on their cameras, because they suck. We wait for the DVD copies and watch those. Should I also pay my friends when I go to their house and watch a movie on their DVD player?

Someday maybe studios will decide that it's better to have their movies watched than not. Maybe if they didn't spend so much money making them, it wouldn't be such a problem. Bill Gates once said that the only reason Windows was so popular was because of Piracy, and that he was okay with that. Better to be Number One than Number Two. And he still made plenty of money. Maybe studios should stop spending $150+ per picture so their financial reward would be greater.

October 21, 2013 at 3:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Edmund Dale Lloyd

October 21, 2013 at 3:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Edmund Dale Lloyd

I've a pile of Blu Rays waiting for me at home. And my wife is begging me to go to cinema. I'm really out the studio equation as I work too much producing, prepping, shooting, editing to have the time to sit, relax, and enjoy a movie for fun :-)

October 22, 2013 at 4:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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People who illegally download music etc., are people who would never have purchased it anyway, but would simply do without it if it were not available for free in some other way.

The recording industry and others are not losing any money they would never have made in the first place.

October 25, 2013 at 12:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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John...

The last film i watch in theater was GRAVITY last week.
The film is very good for actor performance but i do not like the 3D fx it's far to be the best.
In theater if i have the choice i will preferred to watch it in 2 D
To do a short story the film in 2k in 3 D they send you 2 time the image info
so you think the film is in 4K but in reality it's not.

I like to buy my film if I like a film an off to watch it more of 2 time i will considering to buy it, i love watching any extra actor interview and making of. Tintin in Blu-ray got a very good making of i watch it 3 time.

What i really like to see it's a kind of netflix for indy film and i like film with unknown actor.
EL MARIACHI it's a good example.

October 25, 2013 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pierre Samuel Rioux