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Is The Increasingly Crowded Streaming Marketplace Going to Turn Consumers Back to Piracy?

Jeff Kotuby

Piracy was ablaze during the early days of the Internet, with many using P2P sharing services like Kazaa and Limewire to share movies and TV shows over the Internet. For many, especially those in niche fandoms like anime and pro wrestling, this was the only way to gain access to certain, hard-to-reach pieces of content. Soon thereafter, torrent sites became the norm, allowing individuals to share larger swabs of content over safer, faster connections thanks to the new software, coupled with a rise in availability for cable and DSL internet connections. For many, piracy was a necessity, as securing these products legally was either too costly, too difficult, or both — especially for those in countries outside the US. Then came the original batch of streaming services.

Services like Netflix and Hulu provided a wide variety of content all in one place (and at a great price to boot,) making it easier to access content that was once a chore to find. Hulu used to be an adult animation fan’s dream destination, as it was full of shows like Family Guy, South Park, Robot Chicken, and many, many more, while Netflix created a destination for fans of workplace comedies like Parks and Recreation and The Office, or just those who wanted a movie to watch on a random Saturday night.

The simplicity, quality, and abundance of content offered at an affordable price through streaming services made piracy the more convoluted option for once. No longer did fans of niche and mainstream content alike need to dreg through 100 different torrents or filenames, then wait 4 hours to download one video, just for it to be a blurry, 480i resolution video that had no subtitles, so you couldn’t understand what you were watching in some cases. You just signed into Netflix, clicked around a few times, and watched what you wanted.

As more services started to sprout up, however, the content spread itself thinner, and the need for additional subscriptions started to become a reality. Suddenly, you needed Netflix, Peacock, Paramount+, and HBO Max to watch the same shows you’d used to watch with a single Netflix account — and that’s not even factoring in niche services, either. Could piracy come back out from the shadows as more services start to horde content?

Peacock

Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that gives access to up to 15,000 hours of content including original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series.

It will include news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.

Just like other streaming services, Peacock will have their own original series including reboots of Save By The Bell, Punky Brewster, and Battlestar Galactica. They also have shows like Rutherford Falls (Ed Helms), Dr. Death (Alec Baldwin), and a behind-the-scenes docs-series about Saturday Night Live.

The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like the entire Dick Wolf library including Law & Order and Chicago Fire, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.

The service will also feature blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.

In the short term, consumers are more than happy to keep paying for multiple services. According to a report published by Parks Associates in June 2021, 46 percent of US homes with broadband-level Internet connections subscribed to four or more streaming services. This more than doubles last year’s number of 22 percent and dwarfs numbers from years prior. Granted, the COVID-19 pandemic had a lot to do with the rise in numbers, but why did those same people opt to subscribe rather than pirate? The answer could lie in the rise of ad-supported options.

With less expensive options available for streaming fans who want to enjoy Paramount+, HBO Max, Peacock, or Hulu, viewers can now subscribe without worrying about multiple $14.99 fees hitting every month. Reports have found that viewers prefer ad-supported options and don’t mind ads when they’re paying less per month. Over time, the number of people willing to watch ads while streaming has grown. An Ampere report shows that in 2018 Q3, 37% of consumers don’t mind seeing ads while watching shows or movies. In 2021 Q1, it jumped to 46%.

The best way to combat piracy is to make content affordable and accessible, which is what ad-supported options provide to consumers. Streaming services, while ubiquitous, are also making great strides to allow users from any background to consume their content. Some, like Peacock, have a free tier, while most have a less costly, ad-supported tier to allow users who aren’t comfortable paying $15 a month to access their shows and movies. While we have to be honest and admit that piracy will always be prevalent, streaming services are doing a nice job of making content accessible for all and making piracy less convenient.

Paramount Plus

Paramount+ is a subscription video streaming service that includes on-demand access to 12,000+ TV show episodes including originals Star Trek: Discovery, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, and MTV’s Laguna Beach. Meet captivating characters, catch up on your favorite sport, explore new worlds in the growing collection of Paramount+.

Previously under the name ‘CBS All Access,’ Subscribers can choose between their Essentials Plan (which includes ads) for $4.99/month, or go commercial-free with their Premium Plan for $9.99/month.

With their Premium Plan, in addition to not having ads, you will also get access to your local CBS affiliate to stream your local news, prime-time line-up, and late-night. You will also be able to download offline and watch select shows in 4K.

With the lower cost “Essential” plan, you will still be able to watch live NFL games, Champions League, and national news – but you will no longer get your local CBS affiliate like the old ad-supported plan.

With their new app, enjoy advanced recommendations, curated homepages, and new content categories while still being able to stream major live sports like NFL, College Football, College Basketball. Sports fans will also appreciate the service’s inclusion of NFL on CBS, PGA Tour, along with every match of UEFA Champions League and Serie A.

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