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Netflix is killing content piracy

Legitimate streaming content providers are achieving what was impossible for Hollywood to get right: they are stamping out piracy by making available the shows people want to enjoy at reasonable cost and with maximum convenience.

That’s borne out in independent research commissioned by Vocus Group NZ which confirms piracy is dying a natural death as more New Zealanders choose to access their content legitimately. “In short, the reason people are moving away from piracy is that it’s simply more hassle than it’s worth,” says Taryn Hamilton, Consumer General Manager at Vocus Group New Zealand which operates brands including Slingshot, Orcon and Flip.

“The research confirms something many internet pundits have long instinctively believed to be true: piracy isn’t driven by law-breakers, it’s driven by people who can’t easily or affordably get the content they want.”

Conducted by Perceptive in December and polling more than a thousand New Zealanders from all walks of life, the study confirms that when content is made available at a fair price, people pay for it instead of pirating. Moreover, the study doesn’t just show that most of us can’t be bothered with piracy, it also confirms that fewer people who once pirated regularly, are doing it now.

“Around half of all respondents have watched something at some point in their lives that may have been pirated – however, the majority rarely or never do that nowadays,” says Hamilton, noting only around 10 percent of respondents admit to viewing pirate content in the present day.

This emerges in the preferred way that people like to take in their shows or sports. While free-to-air TV rates highly, at 22 percent, paid streaming is the standout figure, at 29 percent. Free streaming services add a further 6 percent, making streaming by far the most popular way to watch for New Zealanders. By contrast, paid satellite TV is the choice for a little over 14 percent of respondents – and only 3 percent prefer to watch pirated content.

“People are watching less pirated material now than they used to, and they assume they'll continue to watch less in the future. This is largely because of the cheap, easy access to free and paid material on the likes of Netflix and YouTube,” Hamilton adds. “Compare that with pirating a show: piracy requires some technical ability and it is risky.

Hamilton says Kiwi consumers are a savvy lot, too. While the research shows that in general people don't have much appetite for pirating, there is much higher agreement that ‘It would be almost impossible to stop people doing this’. “The simple fact for those who know anything about the internet, is that censoring the internet doesn’t work. People know there are multiple sites where it is possible to download illegal material. They also know that blocking the most popular ones simply means you’ll get pirated material elsewhere.”

But the really interesting thing, says Hamilton, is a question around what would stop those who still occasionally view pirate content from doing so. “Overwhelmingly, New Zealanders said ‘cheaper streaming services’ and ‘more content available on existing streaming services’. These two options were by far ahead of other options, at 57 and 48 percent respectively. Punitive measures, such as prosecution for pirates and censorship of pirate sites, were only thought likely to be effective by 33 and 22 percent of people, respectively.”

Internet NZ’s Andrew Cushen says he’s not surprised by the findings: “Rights holders have done well by innovating and building great ways of sharing content at fair prices. Piracy isn’t the big challenge it once was because of this innovation, which consumers are using in droves.

“The upcoming copyright review is an opportunity to enable greater collaboration and creativity through harnessing the power of new tech,” Cushen says.

Historically, industry organisations like the Recording Industry Association and the Motion Picture Association of America have invested millions of dollars in pursuit of pirates, with no apparent abatement in illegal content distribution. By contrast, the simple process of introducing paid streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies, and any number of local and international contenders, has achieved far more. A Bloomberg article puts it succinctly, noting that ‘Subscription-based business models in content distribution is making piracy pointless’.

It’s the classic carrot and stick approach, which further highlights the difference between the efforts of the MPAA and other industry bodies, versus the ‘organic’ action of Netflix, Google Movies and other streaming content providers. “Piracy is finally dying. The reason for that requires an understanding of why people pirated in the first place. They didn’t do it because of inherent criminality, but rather because they couldn’t get the shows they wanted at a price they were prepared to pay,” Hamilton concludes.

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