Outlook: Piracy Data and its application in film production and distribution

Outlook is a series of case studies and presentations during Berlinale 2018, presented by The FilmTech Office and the German Film Producers Association (VDFP).

Chris Anderson from MUSO presents a case study on piracy data.

MUSO collects data from billions of piracy infringements every day to help entertainment companies and rights owners see a bigger picture. With an unrivalled data platform, digital content database covering 196 countries, millions of measured devices and billions of piracy pages continuously tracked, MUSO empowers entertainment companies and rights holders to win against digital piracy.


On night two of Outlook Series we heard from Chris Anderson, Head of Film & TV, UK & Europe at MUSO. In his case study on the topic of piracy data, he provided a number of insights into the behaviour of content consumers across various regions, while diving into the trends that explain why they choose to pirate a film.

Can producers and distributors use piracy data to make more informed decisions? What is the value in this data?

Chris focused his presentation on one particular MUSO product, the MUSO Discover, which gathers intelligence, insights and analysis from piracy data. He explained how MUSO’s data on piracy can help the film industry to better understand demand, and make more informed decisions about audiences.

The data that MUSO provides can be viewed from three levels, which each have a varying target audience: Country level data is targeted to trade bodies and industry associations, Title level data is interesting for professionals like producers, distributors or sales agents, and the User level data is most useful for marketers and sponsorship teams.

Interestingly, he noted that consumers usually try as much as they can to watch a movie legally, but when they reach a roadblock and are unable to find a legal channel to watch it, they are more often than not forced to download or stream it illegally from pirate sites.

The lesson here, he says:

“The audience is watching films, but just not where you want them to watch them.”

What can be taken away from this is that in order to affect the behaviour of consumers who want to access your content, you need to be pointing them to the legally available channels and avoid availability gaps.

Looking at the piracy data for film in Germany in 2016, the last full year for which MUSO had a full available data set available at the moment of the presentation (the data for 2017 is going to be available on Monday, Feb 19, 2018), the total film piracy across the industry was 657,190,932 (including streaming, download, and torrenting). The average number of visits to piracy sites per user in Germany was 9.25.

He noted that while the now old school method of torrenting (downloading) of films went down significantly in 2016 due to Germany’s strict laws, illegal streaming actually also increased significantly over the same period. Other insights include the fact that in 2018 mobile device piracy will overtake desktop.

“The argument that people don’t watch this particular film doesn’t stack up anymore”

He gave an interesting anecdote about a conversation with an Israeli distributor with regards to horror films. He was told that there was no audience for horror films in Israel, therefore distributors weren’t interested in showing them in the country. So Chris pulled the data on horror film titles from the MUSO system. He actually found that around 250,000 infringements had happened in a given period prior to the conversation with the distributor where horror films were streamed illegally in Israel, which just goes to demonstrate the value of piracy data insights for producers, distributors or sales agents.

Another interesting example Chris mentioned was how MUSO provided a director, who wanted to make a TV series, with accurate piracy data about various other series related to her project, to objectively demonstrate the TV network that there was a real audience interested in her particular topic. These arguments helped her project ultimately to get a greenlight because the network had evidence about an existing future audience for that series.

But how content owners can stop or slow down piracy? First of all, everyone should have an anti-piracy strategy in place. It’s important to be proactive about piracy instead of just being reactive. Tools such as geoblocking, wherein internet providers purposely blocks access to pirate websites can be useful (usually the geoblocking of websites happens on request of professional associations or trade bodies). Where geoblocking is implemented, there is usually a huge drop in use in that region.

The key element remains availability though. An audience interested in a film will be drawn to piracy if there is no legal offer in place.

To conclude, he outlined a few different ways that piracy data is being used.

Firstly, that piracy audiences are real audiences, and the insights from piracy data can and should be turned into an opportunity.

Next, the fact that historical theatrical data from 6/9/12 months ago is useful because this is an audience that is watching content right now.

Finally, as much as methods of combating it are getting more and more sophisticated, piracy continues to grow. Piracy data can be essential for helping to understand audiences and demand, as well as help the whole value chain from film production down to sales.


See here for the full Outlook Series program.