Why the launch of Disney Plus could spark the return of internet piracy

Disney Plus' arrival in Australia could see some content consumer revert to internet piracy for their media needs.

Disney Plus' arrival in Australia could see some content consumer revert to internet piracy for their media needs. Photo: Getty

By the end of the year, Australians will have access to a minimum of seven on-demand video subscription platforms – but this market saturation has been tipped to give way to a surprising comeback.

The streaming media landscape is rife with rumours this week that the deluge of services hitting our shores will lead to a resurgence in piracy.

Disney Plus announced an official launch date of November 12 earlier this month, and Apple TV Plus could very well appear by the end of the year.

While their appearance is likely to cause some turbulence for the less-dominant Stan, Curtin University’s Associate Professor in Internet Studies Tama Leaver told The New Daily we can expect to see a peak in the now almost unheard of practice of pirating.

The traditional torrent pirating, where a user downloads content via a third-party, is significantly down on what it used to be before the advent of on-demand services, Associate Professor Leaver said.

What is becoming more and more popular, he said, is streaming piracy, with the perfect example found in Game of Thrones, which was available in Australia on Foxtel.

Game of Thrones is the last significant thing in Australia that you heard people talk about pirating,” Associate Professor Leaver said.

Most experts agree the reason people are turning back to piracy is that the content that’s available and popular is spread across several different platforms, mainly in Netflix, Stan and Foxtel.

game of thrones

Game of Thrones was a major pull back to internet piracy for Australians. Photo: HBO

While nearly half of Australian households subscribe to more than one streaming service, the same research shows most Australians also allocate a budget of about $30 a month for the services.

So for many Australians, signing up to yet another provider for just one show is too much – it’s easier to turn to a pirate website.

The Disney effect

The arrival of Disney in Australia has long been tipped to spell trouble for Stan, while Netflix should remain relatively stable.

Associate Professor Leaver reiterated this was anticipated because Disney Plus would be taking Stan’s Disney and Marvel content, which the Fairfax-owned company previously held exclusive rights to in Australia.

However, Queensland University of Technology professor of media studies Amanda Lotz does not hold the same viewpoint.

Professor Lotz, who joined the university from the University of Michigan earlier this year, believes the arrival of Disney will open the door for Stan to rebrand itself as a quality distributer of Australian content.

She also told The New Daily that the biggest indicator of a platform’s success wasn’t in its initial subscriber numbers: it was what happens a year later that really counted.

What will be interesting for Disney Plus “is looking at the subscription figures at the end of 2020 and seeing how many people are still there,” she said.

It’s easy for people to subscribe to on-demand video services, she said, but it’s also very easy for them to opt out.

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