Australians are spending an average of $5 less per month on streaming services than last year as rising prices and a growing number of services drive them away, new data reveals.
For people like James*, it brought them back to digital piracy.
Digital piracy is the illegal copying or distribution of copyrighted material, such as music, television shows or films, via the Internet.
Data released in the annual Deloitte Media and Entertainment Consumer Insights report, which contains self-reported data from more than 2,000 Australians, shows households are spending $57 a month on streaming, up from $62 in 2022.
For some, giving up streaming means sourcing entertainment through illegal means.
Ramon Lobato, associate professor at RMIT University’s School of Media and Communication, said piracy levels were linked to a number of different factors, including disposable income, willingness to pay, skills digital users, as well as the availability and convenience of legal and pirate services.
“All of these factors work together to shape people’s decisions about how to access content,” he said.
For James, the growing number of streaming platforms has pushed him away from paid services.
“There is a proliferation of platforms, so you have to consider multiple subscriptions to get the same results,” he said.
“Content also appears to vary significantly between platforms depending on which rights holders have an agreement.”
He said it was easier to use a pirated website to find all the content he wanted, in high quality, without any ads or costs.
The Deloitte report shows that 48 percent have difficulty knowing what content is available where, 70 percent would like to be able to manage multiple subscriptions in one place, and 73 percent would like to be able to search and discover content across all their subscriptions in one place. only one place. .
Dr Lobato said fragmentation meant users often struggled to know where to go to stream a particular show.
Aggregation is clearly in demand by Australian households. But fragmentation isn’t the only factor working against streaming.
Availability also plays a role. For James, two series come to mind, The Mandalorian and Star Trek Picard.
“(Star Trek Picard) was available in America I think over 12 hours before it was here and I skipped the queue and went straight to the torrent to get it,” a- he declared.
Data from TorrentFreak, which tracks BitTorrent news and trends, reveals the 10 most torrented movies week after week throughout 2023.
It is important to note that data on piracy cannot be established so entirely conclusively, as it relies on voluntary reporting and the availability of information is limited due to its criminal nature.
Of the 110 films on the list, 39 of them were not available on Australian streaming services at the time of publication.
Avatar: The Way of Water was in the top 10 for 30 weeks. The film was released in Australian cinemas on December 15, 2022, became available for purchase or rental on March 28, 2023, and was released for streaming on Disney+ on June 7, 174 days after its theatrical release.
Dr Lobato said delays in the release of films and TV shows have always been a driver of piracy in Australia, but studios and distributors have worked hard to reduce this in recent years.
And then there is the price
The cost of almost everything is increasing and streaming services are no exception. Over the past 12 months, several streaming services in Australia have increased their prices.
In 2023, streaming all the most torrented movies would cost $97.95 per month for standard ad-free services – and that still wouldn’t give you access to all the movies.
Where streaming is not available, one-off purchases and rentals are mostly available, but this can add up. Rental prices tend to range from $2.99 to over $24.99, while purchase prices can range from $7.99 to over $34.99 depending on the movie.
The Deloitte report showed that 70% of respondents unsubscribed from their streaming service due to price.
While some people will opt for a cheaper ad-based service, a small percentage – like James – will opt out of all their services.
Evolution of piracy
Piracy is not exclusive to film and television, and the ways in which people illegally consume content can differ depending on the nature of that content.
The Attorney General’s 2022 Consumer Survey into Online Copyright Infringement, which has the latest official Australian data, showed an increase in piracy in music, films, TV programs, video games and live sports compared to the previous year.
The survey found that 39 percent of the 2,400 people responding had consumed online content in at least one category in a way that was likely illegal.
The most common form of illegal consumption was paying a small fee to access one or more subscription services through a shared or unknown account, with 16 percent of respondents using this method.
The investigation also found that the majority of offenders were male, aged 25 to 34 and earning more than $80,000 a year – a demographic into which James fits neatly.
Dr. Lobato said the dynamics of hacking varied across media outlets.
“TV and sports all have their own licensing and availability structures, and piracy is very different in each of these markets,” he said.
“As legal streaming services have evolved, so has piracy.
“There are now many options, including torrents, streaming apps, live streams, websites and cloud-based services.”
James said he used a number of different methods for different forms of entertainment, including streaming music ripping (turning streamed content into a downloadable file) and code hacking (using unauthorized code to access software or games by subscription).
He said he turned to these forms of piracy when the content he wanted, like music or older video games, wasn’t readily available.
Willingness to pay
The Deloitte report highlights that there is still a willingness to pay for entertainment, especially compared to other expenses such as alcohol and tobacco or dining out.
And even James says he’s willing to pay if he sees the value in the service.
“I paid for Netflix and I have paid for it for many years, probably until about 2021,” he said.
“I would probably be willing to pay $39 to $49 if (a platform) had everything available.”
As for the damage to the film and television industry, anti-piracy group Creative Content Australia reports that piracy undermines confidence in film financing, meaning investors are less likely to invest in other films when piracy impacts their returns.
However, James said he doesn’t believe it depends on the individual.
Many streaming services in Australia are reporting profits. Netflix, for example, is estimated to have earned around $1 billion in Australia in 2022, up from $30.7 million the previous year after cracking down on password sharing.
“These massive conglomerates can afford to pay content creators,” James said.
“I think the individual doesn’t matter, but if it was very widespread… then I could see it having major impacts on the content.”
*James’ name has been changed.