Oscar Nominees See Interest Spike on Pirate Sites

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For filmmakers, it’s an incredible honor to be nominated for an Oscar. The added exposure can also lead to a profit boost for smaller releases. That comes with a downside too, however, as recent data reveal that Oscar nominations also tend to cause a spike in pirated downloads.

oscarsThe Oscars are the most anticipated movie awards show of the year, closely followed by hundreds of millions of movie fans around the world.

Next month, the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where millions of movie fans will see the crowning of this year’s “Best Picture”.

There are currently ten contenders in the race for the prestigious award. The nominees range from blockbuster titles such as “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick, to lesser-known gems such as “Tár” and “Triangle of Sadness”.

Oscar Pirates

An Oscar nomination is a big deal for the latter category. The press attention opens the door to a new audience, which ultimately translates into additional revenue. However, there’s also a darker side to this phenomenon in the form of online piracy.

Pirates come in all shapes and sizes but their consumption habits show a lot of overlap with the rest of the population. This means that if a movie is generating positive headlines, more people will be interested in downloading or streaming a pirated copy.

To demonstrate this phenomenon, we looked at the estimated number of downloads through torrent sites for all best picture nominees, excluding “Women Talking,” which hadn’t been pirated yet.

The Nomination Boost

These data, collected with help from Iknow, reveal a clear Oscar boost for the nominated titles. On the first full day after the announcement, the downloads for nearly all films increased compared to a week earlier. This Oscar-boost effect ranges from 10% to 90%, as shown in the overview below.

Movie Increase (18/25 January)
All Quiet on the Western Front 61%
Avatar: The Way of Water -9%
Elvis 43%
Everything Everywhere All at Once 60%
Tár 89%
The Banshees of Inisherin 63%
The Fabelmans 58%
Top Gun: Maverick 15%
Triangle of Sadness 68%

There are two main outliers in this list; “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick”. These are the biggest blockbusters, already seen by millions, and the extra exposure didn’t do all that much.

The effect is markedly different for “Tár” and “Triangle of Sadness”, with interest almost doubling for both following the Oscar nominations. The other titles ended up somewhere in the middle, still with significant increases.

Estimated torrent downloads (Jan 10 – feb 5)

oscar downloads

The chart above shows daily download estimates for the Oscar nominees, excluding the two blockbusters. This clearly shows the spike starting on the 24th of January, which lasted for a few days. After that, pirate interest in these titles went back to normal.

More Awards?

When we first looked at the data we couldn’t immediately explain why there was a separate increase in downloads on January 11th for “The Fablemans”, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, and “The Banshees of Inisherin”. That was two weeks before the nominations. Could there be something wrong with the data?

While we can never completely rule out errors, the more likely explanation is another awards show. On January 11th “The Fablemans”, “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won multiple Golden Globes, beating all other films.

These data show that awards shows are still a big deal, also for pirates. However, the effect is the most pronounced for smaller releases that gain most from additional media exposure. If one of these scoops up the best picture award next month, another major piracy boost is likely.


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