Disney+ will dramatically increase illegal downloading in Australia

The launch of the latest streaming video-on-demand service in Australia is about to have an unwanted consequence for content creators, according to LIDA’s Jake Lyme.

This week, Australia’s streaming market welcomed a new competitor with the launch of the much anticipated Disney+. For $8.99 a month, you can access a catalogue that includes the Marvel and Star Wars libraries, classics such as Frozen, The Lion King, Toy Story, and The Simpsons, and original content like The Mandalorian.

But few households can afford to fork out for Disney+ on top of all the other streaming offerings. And with the hype around series such as The Mandalorian, we’ll most likely see an increase in illegal downloading as wannabe viewers look to get their hands on these shows. That’s right – Disney+ will probably drive up illegal downloading in this country.

Disney+ launched in the local market this week

According to AMPD Research, Australians, on average, are already spending $35.30 per month for 1.9 subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services. If you were to join all primary services at the cheapest price possible – Netflix Basic at $9.99, Stan at $10, Foxtel Now at $25, Amazon Prime Video at $6.99, Apple TV+ at $4.99, and now Disney+ at $8.99 – you’d be set back $65.96 per month. And this list doesn’t include additional niche services such as 10 All Access, YouTube Premium, Kayo, Hayu and more.

As more providers enter the market and content becomes fragmented, Australians will resort to illegal downloads. The past 12 years of data from torrentfreak.com supports this theory. Here’s what crunching the data tells us:

Bingeable TV is the most consumed content

Nielsen conducted a study for the Wall Street Journal from 2017-2018, and found that The Office was the most-watched content on Netflix, on 45.8bn minutes. Stranger Things, Netflix’s original cornerstone program, clocked 27.6bn minutes.

Additionally, Nielsen reported that the top originals are a good reason to sign up, but don’t drive consistent viewership. So bingeable content may be in high demand, but you can just as easily binge it when you download it illegally versus watching on its native platform.

On-demand and release dates are essential to consumers

Back in the mid-2000s, every water-cooler conversation was about the latest episode of Lost or Heroes. They were free-to-air programming made available to every Australian with a TV. But, due to the delay in broadcast compared to America, and the inability to watch it when it suited, the two shows averaged 10-12m illegal downloads per year between them.

You can count on the fact that people want to watch their favourite shows when everyone else is watching them, regardless of whether they are paying for the platform that streams them.

One cornerstone program won’t necessarily get you a loyal customer

Game of Thrones set the world into a new era of television. It dominated pop-culture and awakened the inner nerd in many of us. In Australia, GOT was only available on Foxtel. In the US, it was HBO, and for many customers, this was not their preferred SVOD service.

This combination of market conditions paved the way for unheard-of-levels of illegal downloads, with yearly reported numbers hitting as high as 14.4m in a year, and topping the top 10 illegal downloads list for six years.

With Disney+ releasing The Mandalorian, Australians are likely to follow a similar path and choose illegal downloads as opposed to signing up to the platform.

Music doesn’t experience the same issue

Analysing music-on-demand services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora, we don’t see the same issue. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has reported the total number of stream-rippers has dropped dramatically, from 32% last year to 23% in 2019.

And a recent UK YouGov survey found Brits are pirating less, with 18% of respondents reporting piracy in 2013, compared to 10% in 2018. A study also showed 18% of respondents often tried to get pirated TV content, with exclusive content likely to cause an increase, with a self-reported jump to 37%.

Some of us will jump on board the Disney+ train, lured by The Mandalorian and the nostalgia of The Simpsons. But it’s even more likely that the rest of us will stick with our current streaming provider/s and turn to a tech-savvy friend for a USB copy of the newest hit show.

The only solution, as I see it, is to de-fragment content, allowing users to consume shows regardless of the service which offers it. The implementation of an appropriate financial model would move us into a new era, where we pay for what we watch rather than having to pick one streaming platform over the other. But given the major investment in the SVOD market, that’s an unlikely outcome.

Jake Lyme is a data scientist at M&C Saatchi agency, LIDA


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