The European Commission has released a new report on the film viewing habits of Europeans this week.
The report, titled “A profile of current and future audiovisual audience”, draws its conclusions based on a survey of 4,608 respondents between the ages of 4 and 50 scattered across Europe. The participants were taken from a representative sample of ten different countries including France, Germany and the UK.
One of the main findings is that up to 97% percent of all Europeans are film viewers, but that the majority don’t pay for the films they watch over the Internet.
“Nearly 70% of Europeans download or stream films for free, whether legally or illegally,” the European Commission reports.
The study does not distinguish between legal and illegal downloads, but half of all respondents said they downloaded or streamed films because cinema tickets and DVDs are too expensive. This suggests that the films they watch come from “pirate” sources.
More than two-third (68%) of film viewers said they downloaded movies without paying, and half of this group did so on a weekly basis. Streaming free movies is slightly less popular with 56% of the total, but it’s still something half of the population has experience with.
Downloading and streaming is most common among Europeans in the 16-25 age group. In addition, there is a small difference between men and women, with the former downloading and streaming slightly more.
One of the main questions is why so many people prefer free copies over paid alternatives. It may come as no surprise that price is an important factor here.
The chart below shows that the price of cinema tickets, video on demand services and DVDs is a key motivation. Half of all people say they prefer free films because the legal alternatives are too expensive.
The fact that some films are not available yet also plays an important role, and is mentioned by 30% of the respondents.
The report also offers some further insight into regional differences in motivations. For example, the high price of legal films is mentioned by only 39% of Romanians, but by 64% of the French.
A lack of legal alternatives is often mentioned as a key motivation in Romania, Croatia and Poland, with around 35% in these countries. In France, the UK and Lithuania, availability was least mentioned with little over 20%.
According to the European Commission these high download and streaming numbers are no surprise, and it suggests that the film industry itself holds the key to lowering high piracy rates.
“The study finds that this is not surprising because, while the public takes a lot of interest in films as a whole, the nearest cinema is often some distance from them and the choice on screen is frequently rather limited,” the European Commission writes.
“It suggests that the European film industry can increase revenues by exploiting different types of profit-making online platforms to increase the availability of films and reach new audiences,” the Commission notes.
While the report signals some key trends, the movie industry is likely to disagree with the conclusion that it’s up to them to make a change.
Instead, Hollywood is likely interpret the findings as an affirmation that pirates are cheapskates out to save money, and therefore tougher anti-piracy measures are required.