Early in the month I wrote a piece for Forrester’s clients called How To Keep Casual Video Piracy At Bay In 2009. (Yes, I enjoy inserting little images like the idea of “pirates at bay” into my writing — I consider it a minor victory.)
The premise of the report is that the video industry has yet to feel the heat of video piracy because, frankly, it’s just too much of a pain to pirate video. Only 10% of US online adults have ever downloaded video files via a P2P application. That’s because you need big storage, mega bandwidth, and you need to be conversant with a whole range of P2P hosting sites that are not easy to navigate. In short, it’s inconvenient.
If you know me, you know I believe that convenience is everything in this or any business. That’s why piracy is about to get a lot worse: it’s about to turn from downloading to streaming.
That’s much more convenient. I didn’t have to download a single application in order to watch the opening minutes of Madagascar 2 on Megavideo.com just last week. (Note: I won’t post a link not only because the file has been taken down since then but because I don’t advocate piracy of any kind. I watched until the opening credits just to verify it was there and then stopped. I don’t download illegal video files or MP3s and when people email them to me I delete them. It’s not a high horse, just a personal ethic.)
More and more, people will be able to stream the stuff they want to steal rather than risk downloading it. That’s why the right solution is to make it easier to get legally than it is to steal. As I wrote in the conclusion of my report:
MAKE LEGITIMATE VIEWING EASIER THAN PIRACY AND LEGAL FORMS WILL TRIUMPH
Crushing illegal streaming will be even harder than crushing P2P sites. We don’t recommend that the industry give up, however. Instead, we think automated content identification systems from companies like auditude and Vobile, Inc. do an increasingly reliable job of finding infringing content, making it easier for studios and broadcasters to respond quickly to pirated streams around the world. However, erecting barriers to piracy is only one half of the equation. While they make it hard for the people who sponsor piracy, the best long-term solution is one in which consumers’ fundamental desire for easy access to top content is satiated through legal means.
So far, the industry gets this, but as I have documented on this blog, there are some exceptions, such as when Warner Brothers TV pulled down episodes of The Mentalist from CBS.com. Interestingly, on the CBS.com fan forum for The Mentalist, one concerned viewer posted links to a variety of sites where you can stream the show illegally. Networks, even human ones, have a way of routing around blockages.