While the industry has been primarily concerning itself with the rise of adblocking a much more concerning trend has been going on right under our noses. Odds are, as a digitally savvy heavy media consumer, you’re probably one of these trendsetters yourself.
Now finally, we have the numbers.
The Commercial Court was informed yesterday that approximately 1.3 Million (yes, million) of us are illegally downloading our movies and box set binges. To put that in context, that’s roughly the same amount who watch the most coveted TV ad spot – The Late Late Toy Show.
With only so many hours in the day and a multimedia world of laptops, mobiles and tablet devices, while it’s quite acceptable to believe we lead more media heavy lives. However, I find it very hard to believe these downloads are not having an adverse effect on both live and recorded TV viewing.
That is 1.3 Million people watching any programmes and movies they choose, for free, at any time.
With no ads.
At least, not the ones we’re making or buying anyway.
And with an Android box costing about a third of a TV licence, it’s hard to see the trend dropping off anytime soon.
1,470,213 devices are using ad blockers in Ireland right now and the average user owns 3.6 of them (ref. Global Web Index) then there are around 408,900 Irish people are using ad blockers.
Yet we seem exclusively obsessed with ad blocking in the industry.
Obviously, both ad blocking and illegal downloading are risks to both native platforms and the Irish marketing industry alike. However, the effect of one of them is very visible to digital platforms and buyers and the other is based on a sample of 1,050 homes… Perhaps this has something to do with no red flags going up.
Certainly, illegal downloading appears not to be a priority for anyone but the studios producing the stuff we watch – who have collectively taken the issue to The Commercial Court. As the concept of ‘broadcaster’ becomes more obscure in terms of added value to the consumer versus a ‘hoaster’ of direct content, traditional broadcasters should be leading the battle (or at the very least supporting it) if they want to survive as long as possible, not depending on their suppliers.
This being said, the cat and mouse chase of banning websites that host such content (or at least, the links to it) has been a long established history of epic fails. One website disappears after months of expensive legal battles, two more pop up in its place before you’ve had time to put the kettle on…
Meanwhile, a marketing route such as the old ad above may not only run the risk of having zero effect (apart from maybe provoking a few laughs), but may also run the risk of
a) educating the audience in how to do the very thing it’s trying to prevent and
b) normalising the behaviour (the old ‘God if they have to advertise at it, everyone must be at it… I guess I’m missing out!’ effect).
One thing’s for certain, though, it is an established behavioural economics principle that our moral code is ‘buggy’. By traditional economic principles, cheating should be a simple cost-benefit analysis. But it’s not. In reality, we decide how much to ‘cheat’ in life (such as illegally downloading) based on a combination of this risk and how the behaviour affects our perception of ourselves in the immediate.
Where it gets really interesting is what you could call the ‘Enron effect’ – which is where we see others all around us engaging in a behaviour, so relatively we don’t perceive ourselves as cheats. It gets normalised. And if phenomena like that can lead to institutionalised, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud, those fighting against illegal downloading are unfortunately fighting monkey see, monkey do…