Despite producing some of the most popular TV shows of last year, Netflix’s originals do not feature in Torrentfreak’s top ten pirated TV shows in 2019. The analysis conducted by the file-sharing publication based on the top torrent websites globally shows that Netflix has managed to avoid the highest levels of piracy in 2019. Instead the list is populated by high-profile TV series from premium TV channels and studio groups, including HBO’s Game of Thrones and Chernobyl, as well as Disney’s The Mandalorian which only premiered on new streaming service Disney+ in November 2019.
But the piracy leaderboard is not a concrete measure of popularity - Netflix’s hit series, Stranger Things, actually scores higher in terms of Google search volumes than any of the TV shows on this list (barring Game of Thrones). Ampere believes that the lower piracy rates for Netflix originals are influenced by the widespread accessibility of Netflix around the world. Since launching near-globally in 2016, Netflix has ensured near universal access to its originals across its footprint. In addition, by introducing the ability to download content, it has also made it possible for subscribers in areas with poor broadband to obtain a high-quality viewing experience without the need to pirate content. And a low pricepoint in most markets means that legitimate access is straightforward to justify for those consumers interested in specific shows.
In contrast, due to exclusive and market-specific licensing agreements struck with HBO (often made with premium pay TV operators), the most pirated TV shows (Game of Thrones) was available on 15 different platforms across 23 countries. Similarly, HBO’s other 2019 hit (Chernobyl – a co-production with European pay TV operator Sky) was available on 9 different platforms in 24 countries. Meanwhile Disney+’s globally hyped flagship TV show – The Mandalorian – was only available legally in three countries: USA, Netherlands, and Australia.
Nonetheless, the rise in streaming access to large video libraries containing popular shows is having an effect on pirate behaviour. Across the ten countries surveyed by Ampere since 2015, use of pirate sites and services by consumers has declined significantly. Just under 10 per cent of Internet users across the markets used a pirate site or service on a monthly basis in Q3 2016. By Q3 2019, this had dropped to around 4 per cent. As Hollywood studios continue expand their direct-to-consumer presence over the coming years, there is an opportunity to widen low-cost legitimate access and exert further pressure on pirate activity. However, the increased fragmentation of video content may ultimately undo the industry’s strides in fighting piracy as consumers feel the financial squeeze of multiple subscriptions and finding video content becomes more difficult.