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Denying Consumers Access to OTT Content Drives Searches for Pirated Content

video piracy
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CATONSVILLE, Md.—Limiting access to OTT content contributes to people pirating content and appears to be a more important factor in driving piracy demand than market rate pricing of streaming services, according to new research.

Researchers from the University of Houston, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Indeed in Austin, Texas, examined the growth of Netflix in 40 Asian countries after the company announced in January 2016 its plans for global expansion. They compared searches for pirated content in Indonesia, where the nation’s primary telecommunications firm blocked the service to such searches in the other countries. 

The researchers found that the failure of Netflix to launch in Indonesia led to a 19.7% increase in searches for pirated movies and TV shows, which could have been viewed legally if the public in Indonesia had access to Netflix.

To examine piracy demand, the researchers collected monthly search data from Google for a sample of 304 titles, including movies and TV shows, available on Netflix in 41 Asian nations between October 2014 and June 2016. This period represents the time before the Netflix expansion and the months following its rollout. 

While denial of access to the content motivated searches for pirated content, it wasn’t the only reason. Where people have access to paid OTT content, they may simply wish to avoid paying market rates. However, the searches for pirated content is more closely associated with content with restricted access, they found. 

The researchers also found that demand for pirated content is higher for less dialogue-oriented content, which is consistent with the greater appeal of dialogue-light content to non-English-speaking consumers, the researchers said.

The research is published in the May edition of the INFORMS journal Marketing Science. The researchers’ article is entitled “The Effect of Over-the-Top Media Services on Piracy Search: Evidence from a Natural Experiment.”