A new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers is painting a dreary picture for television production companies and Hollywood movie studios. It seems that piracy is still a far more attractive option than even the best premium video on-demand services. Even the most aggressive plans the studios have in mind for the future will fall short, if PwC's data is accurate.

Before we dive in too far, it's important to point out that this study only surveyed people who are or have recently been engaged in pirating content. Let's take a look at the major points we can get out of this new report, entitled Discovering Behaviors and Attitudes Related to Pirating Content:

Premium Video Content Costs Too Much

The single biggest obstacle standing between those who wish to sell video content and those who download pirated content is price. Pure and simple. PwC's data shows that "free" is what moves the needle for consumers:

Not surprisingly, the key motivator to pirate is the reward of free content—and the belief that buying hard copies or paying to download content is either unnecessary or has become too expensive.

The latest rumors have Hollywood studios gearing up for a service that would allow consumers to rent (not own) a digital download or stream of a feature film somewhere around 2-3 months after it hits theaters, for a price around $25. Which won't cut it for the pirates.

People willing to pirate video content are willing to pay for it... but only to the tune of $3 for a movie, and $1 for an episode of television. Wow. That's... basically unreasonable. What I get out of that statistic--and, indeed, the entire report--is this: pirates don't give a darn, and generally want things for free that by all rights should cost them money. No price point from the studios is going to make a difference to these people.

Premium Video Content Takes Too Long To Arrive

Pirates also don't like waiting. They would be willing to pay those prices above ($3 for a film, $1 for a television episode) only if that content is made available to them a month after the film opens in theaters or sooner.

Although they are accustomed to getting content for free, most (76%) said they are somewhat willing to pay a nominal fee if the content can be accessed closer to its release date.

Video Pirates Are Cheap, Stubborn, & Completely Unreasonable pwcchart2 600x414

Oh, and they only want to pay that exceedingly low-ball price if they can own the content forever. They don't want to rent it.

Is it just me, or are video pirates starting to sound like a bunch of whiny sissies? I mean, it's not even logical. If movie studios are forced to make their product available to the public a month after release, for $3 digital downloads, then they'll go out of business in a few years. I want to buy a Chevy Volt for $15 cash and my bottle cap collection, but that doesn't mean it can or should happen.

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Pirates Don't Care About Consequences

Threatening to sue a video pirate? He (or she) doesn't really care. Think pirates are concerned with video quality on downloads compared to purchased copies? They're not. Think the threat of possible malicious torrent files carrying harmful computer viruses will stop pirates in their tracks? They won't even blink.

Pirates just don't care. They want it now, they want it free, and they're not scared of anything. In fact, a whopping 81% said they will continue to pirate video content in the future.

Video Pirates Are Cheap, Stubborn, & Completely Unreasonable pwcchart3 600x413

Hulu Isn't Helping

The study outright says that ad-supported video streaming sites like Hulu are actually contributing to the piracy problem, instead of solving it like they were intended to. Awesome. I'm sure Hulu loves hearing that.

"Such sites may be causing confusion as to what is pirated content and what is legitimate, free content."

So they're saying that some pirates can't tell the difference between Hulu and a torrent site? Not sure I buy that. However, I do think that when Hulu gives us a movie for free, subconsciously... they're setting the consumer up to think that free is a viable business model. "Why shouldn't the rest of my movies be free?"

Mobile Piracy On The Rise

That screenshot above also shows you that 40% think they'll do their pirating by using their mobile device within the next six months. This just underscores what we looked at earlier. Pirates don't care nearly as much about video quality or the viewing experience as Hollywood would like to believe they do. They just want to see the hottest new movies and shows without paying, even if that means watching it on a 3.5-inch screen.


It's not all bad news. After all, these are just the pirates we're talking about here--those who are already actively downloading TV episodes and films illegally. I could make a case that there will always be a small number of these people out there... the rebels. The real trick for Hollywood is how to keep non-pirating consumers from becoming pirating consumers, particularly in an economy that is less than stellar. It's possible, maybe even likely, that there's a happy medium in there somewhere, in terms of price point and release date, that would be appealing enough to keep most customers from turning to the dark side of piracy.

But the ones already doing it? They're a lost cause. Forget them. You'll never get them back now that they're spoiled. Online video pirates are cheap, stubborn, selfish, and totally unreasonable... deluded even. You can't expect Hollywood to bend much more to please this group, and I guess that's why they've starting filing lawsuits.

You can view the full report from PricewaterhouseCoopers here.

  • Pimping4art

    This article makes one common error: the assumption that pirates would actually watch content if they had to pay for it. For many pirates, the entertainment value of the content is worth very little if any money. If they had two options -- pay or don't watch -- many would choose the latter.

  • Rosana Hart

    Having recently lived in Mexico for five years, I am well aware that all over the third world, pirated DVDs sell like crazy in the street markets.

    • Christophor Rick

      Third world? Hell that happens everywhere ;)

  • Rene Amador

    I'm a filmmaker and have my own video destination site that is ad-supported. We're planning on targeting the pirate community to market our upcoming projects, a scifi action film, a supernatural horror, and other projects that people actually want to see and aren't just crap star-vehicles designed for 15 seconds of watercooler talk. Most marketers would kill to have so many rabid consumers concentrated on these sites, but they poopoo it because these people don't plunk down the cash. So use ads, duh, video ad CPMs are soaring and likely only going to go up as advertising costs begin to crest on TV and funds displace onto the web.

    • Christophor Rick

      I'm on board as a viewer!

  • Christophor Rick

    Speaking for some pirates I know. I think half that report is bullshit. ;) The problem with pirated copies of things is generally the lack of quality, so I'm told. Many people I know are your non-pirating consumers who are forced into pirating for one reason or another.

    For example, during the recent Super Bowl, when the GREEN BAY PACKERS became NFL Champs, I was faced with three options - go to a really smoky pub to watch, watch an illegal, potentially unstable stream online or pay $39.99 to NFL.com for a stable HD feed.
    I paid, because that sort of content was too important to leave to any other option, I wanted the best picture possible and I might have spent half that in the smoky pub and been partly uncomfortable. Not to mention coverage might not have been in English. I know the language thing doesn't apply to everyone, but it is an issue from time to time.

    Films? From what I know of some European pirates, the prices in theatres are what drive them to pirate it at home, not the online prices nor the wait. I imagine that if the online prices were less-than or about-half the theatres, films were provided relatively close to the release date (sure, a month or so) and were even just a 24-hour rental, they might still make a good dent in piracy. Of course they have to beat the DVD rips and the screener leaks to market. Cam recordings of films suck. I would pay to never see one of those, not that I've ever seen one. I just hear things. They shouldn't even be a concern to studios.

    TV. I would guess that the majority of people watching pirated TV, are doing so because they can't get the content online or in their own language. I know plenty of expats living here in Europe that can't get US TV online and so...they go seek it out where they can. This is largely a problem with local TV not using that full digital bandwidth and broadcasting in English. That in turn is probably a licensing thing where they would have to pay more to get the actual English audio for broadcast because of someone being greedy in the middle. I don't really know but I find it silly how many broadcasters here don't broadcast in multiple languages (including every station here in the Czech Republic who ONLY broadcast in Czech when there are some 200,000 English speaking foreigners in the country).

    The thing about paying for TV content... it's broadcast free, over the air, we can DVR, time-shift and skip ads... so, many see downloading, watching once and deleting TV episodes as not really pirating at all... it's more like crowd-sourced-time-shifting. Of course it's technically illegal. But they don't see it as being morally wrong.

    Finally, when I return to the States (later this spring). I most likely won't get cable. I will get both a Netflix and a Hulu Plus (maybe) account and invest in higher speed broadband and maybe building a Boxee PC. OK, maybe...the most basic cable for ESPN, etc.

    One potential pirate, potentially converted. :)