With Internet access almost universal across the UK and a young, tech-savvy audience fully clued-up on the wonders of on-demand content, little wonder that new ways to consume content are being gobbled up across the country.
Unfortunately for content providers, those methods aren’t always official. In fact, all signs point to an uptick in illegal content consumption from a range of relatively new devices which excel when it comes to ease of access.
We’re talking about software such as Kodi, the legal media player that can be super-charged to provide a full-on piracy experience. Or custom Android apps like Showbox, Terrarium TV and Mobdro, each capable of delivering premium movies, TV shows and sport, without the user ever paying a penny.
The popularity of illegal streaming has prompted market research firm YouGov to conduct a survey on the consumption habits of Brits, with the company concluding that such services pose a “major threat” to TV subscription brands in the UK.
According to its “Illegal Streaming” survey, just short of five million people in the UK are using pirate TV streaming services. YouGov says that around 10% of the adult population (4.9m people) currently have access to custom Kodi boxes, modified Fire TV sticks, and illegal streaming apps running on smartphones and tablets.
The part that will send shudders down the spines of companies like Sky, Virgin and BT – who are not only ISPs but major content providers too – is that pirate consumers are backing away from premium services.
YouGov says that one out of every seven ‘pirate’ streamers say that their use of unauthorized platforms has caused them to cancel “at least one subscription service.” The market researchers note that the actual number of subscriptions is likely to be lower due to the discrepancy between households and individuals but still, the numbers remain significant.
For now at least, there is a significant number of people who maintain both legal subscriptions and parallel pirate setups. However, YouGov reports that almost a third of pirates (31%) say they will cancel official subscriptions during the next 12 months.
There can be little doubt that the rise of so-called “living room” streaming can be attributed to word-of-mouth marketing, with people finding excitement in the range of content on offer for a negligible outlay. With that in mind, YouGov reports that six out of ten pirates say they intend to promote the availability of unauthorized services to both friends and family.
If the growth that promotion fuels meets YouGov’s expectations, the numbers of people getting into the piracy scene could be significant. The market research company reports that 2.6 million non-pirates say they’re preparing to start using illegal streaming platforms in the future, with 400,000 predicting involvement within the next 90 days.
And here’s the problem. YouGov reports that almost 90% of these non-pirates currently have a subscription to an official TV service but should they get involved, almost half are predicting that they will cancel them within 12 months of obtaining a pirate device.
Over in the United States, it was recently reported that more than half of all millennials regularly use pirate streaming services to watch TV shows or movies. The numbers in the UK aren’t so high, but they remain significant nonetheless. According to YouGov, 18 to 34-year-olds account for 37% of pirate users, around 1.8 million people.
The survey also touched on people’s attitudes towards unauthorized streaming, and it comes as no surprise that many feel the high prices of genuine products justifies the use of illicit alternatives.
Bundled packaging means that people in the UK are often required to spend large amounts of money on channels they don’t even watch, so when cheaper options are made available, few have sympathy for what are perceived to be rich content providers.