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Is Streaming Fragmentation Reviving Piracy?

David Satin

Have you found yourself sailing the troubled waters of streaming video piracy lately? If so, you’re definitely not alone.

Piracy is eating into the bottom lines of companies like Netflix, and the problem is getting worse. According to piracy tracking company Muso, as reported by Torrent Freak, Netflix content makes up 16% of all global pirated content. Pirating movies and shows declined as Netflix launched and became the dominant hub for all streaming content and the most compelling titles were all available to stream legally at a reasonable price.

But, the fragmentation of streaming services is leading to a revival in piracy. As the content that people want to watch is distributed across more and more services, the price to maintain access to all of the in-demand titles is climbing. That is leaving some feeling that the financial burden is too high to justify maintaining a large number of streaming subscriptions, and more and more of these customers are turning to less than legal ways to obtain the content.

According to a recent survey from Horowitz Research, as reported by MediaPost, 40% of U.S. adults admit that they pirate video content by using a “jailbroken” set-top box, visiting a pirating website, or via peer-to-peer BitTorrenting.

Twenty-three percent of respondents also said that they thought piracy was “OK,” a jump from 14% in 2019, when the streaming market was less saturated, according to MediaPost’s reporting of Parks Associates data.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the data shows that lower-income households were actually less likely to pirate content than they were to share passwords, which is legal but frowned upon by streaming companies. Netflix is exploring ways to crack down on password sharing after it reported earlier this year that 100 million people use the service via an account paid for by someone outside of their home.

But the new data may make companies like Netflix revise their plan for password sharing. After all, if the other alternative is simply having their content stolen, streamers may feel it’s better to at least have SOMEONE paying for it.

Services could also think about cracking down harder on piracy, but that’s a risky proposition. Media companies are rightly or wrongly seen as some of the richest corporations in the world. A harsh campaign to prosecute people who pirate content is likely to be a public relations nightmare for any company that attempts it.

Aggregation could be a helpful path forward for streamers looking to avoid piracy, especially if they can bundle services at a lower price point.

“With an increasingly fragmented content landscape as content owners [license to] direct-to-consumer services, piracy is soaring,” Sebastian Kramer, SVP for digital TV company NAGRA, said according to MediaPost. “Ultimately, consumers are looking for content, so we all need to focus on the best, aggregated approaches to allow this to happen.”

Rebundling and consolidation will likely be a major part of the future of streaming, but it will take time to put this particular genie back in the bottle, so expect the trend of increasing piracy to continue. But media companies are noticing, and consumers who engage in piracy shouldn’t be surprised if they’re made to walk the plank for such behavior in the future.

Netflix

Netflix is a subscription video streaming service that includes on-demand access to 3,000+ movies, 2,000+ TV Shows, and Netflix Originals like Stranger Things, Squid Game, The Crown, Tiger King, and Bridgerton. They are constantly adding new shows and movies. Some of their Academy Award-winning exclusives include Roma, Marriage Story, Mank, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Netflix offers four plans — on 1 device in SD with their “Basic with Ads” ($6.99) plan, on 1 device in SD with their “Basic” ($9.99) plan, on 2 devices in HD with their “Standard” ($15.49) plan, and 4 devices in up to 4K on their “Premium” ($19.99) plan.

Netflix spends more money on content than any other streaming service meaning that you get more value for the monthly fee.

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