Subscription streaming may not be the solution that will end piracy, a new study finds
Image/Photo Credit: Netflix
A new study has found that subscription video-on-demand platforms like Netflix may not have as much impact on piracy rates as first thought.
A joint study by the Carnegie Mellon University and Universidade Católica Portuguesa monitored the downloading habits of thousands of Internet users, with half of those participating in the study given a free 45-day subscription to premium on-demand content.
The researchers then observed the BitTorrent downloading habits of these users, but found that despite access to legal content, piracy downloading only decreased by a small amount.
"We find that, on average, households that received the gift increased overall TV consumption by 4.6% and reduced Internet downloads and uploads by 4.2% and 4.5%, respectively. However, and also on average, treated households did not change their likelihood of using BitTorrent during the experiment," the study found.
The main reason for this lack of change, the researchers noted, was the fact that the content pirates wanted to watch weren't available on the legal streaming platforms they were given gift subscriptions to. In fact, most found only 12% of the content they wanted to watch on the platform used in the study. For the households that did find the content they wanted on services like Netflix, the results were much more promising, but still did not eliminate piracy completely from these households.
"Households with preferences aligned with the gifted content reduced their probability of using BitTorrent during the experiment by 18% and decreased their amount of upload traffic by 45%," noted the researchers.
The lackluster results could have been even worse, since those participating in the study were given free access to a premium VOD platform, and most would not have been willing to pay for it. When asked how much they were willing to pay for a service like Netflix, the average amount the households came up with was $3.25 USD, much less than the actual cost of such as service.
One thing the study may not have accounted for is the ability for SVOD to change a user's viewing habits. Having access to more original, binge worthy content as part of a larger library of available to view titles may reduce the household's desire to view new release content and other content not available on SVOD platforms. It may, for example, delay their desire to view certain content until it is released on SVOD platforms, and thus eventually reducing their need to rely on piracy.
But as the result stands for this current study, the conclusions is clear that by itself, SVOD isn't going to end the piracy problem, unless it's priced so low that it will "reduce industry revenue [and] may damage overall incentives to produce new content".