Australia used to be the downloading capital of the world but once streaming companies made it easy and affordable to pay for our shows here that “piracy” capital we earned disappeared. Unfortunately, illegal downloading is on the way back in according to new analysis from MUSO, a U.K.-based anti-piracy analyst and Kearny, “a consultancy.”

While we should always be sceptical of any surveys and analysis done by anyone, especially those with obvious biases, the figures in the new survey do tend to show that the illegal downloading of media in Australia is on the rise. The survey and analysis showed that the number of visits to online piracy websites reached 141 billion in 2023 — a staggering 386 million visits every single day. This marks a 12 percent increase since 2019 according to MUSO.

The study showed that across Asia, there were an average of 34 visits to piracy websites in 2023 for each person, compared to a lower 26 per person in North America. Asia of course has more complex issues leading to piracy than North America with one being the increase in poverty.

“The global rise of video content piracy is concerning,” says Christophe Firth, a partner at Kearney. “However, with a slight adjustment of perspective, it also becomes an opportunity for those media companies that can change their approach to commercialize pirate users and plug the revenue leakage.”

MUSO and Kearney try and make sense of the increases putting it down to:

  • A proliferation of platforms means more behind walled gardens
  • Subscription fatigue — too many providers and thus too many subscriptions
  • Crackdowns on password sharing
  • More advertisements
  • Limiting the number of devices able to simultaneously watch shows
  • Hiking of prices

Andy Chatterley, founder and CEO of MUSO says: “You could probably make quite a nice direct correlation between streaming services and numbers of subscribers and increases in piracy and the cost of living and people generally getting subscriptions.” There is a lot more nuance to the issue than that I feel but generally, folks want more value for money these days when times are tougher. More ads, increased costs and lower quality shows is the opposite of a solution, hence the turning to piracy.

The MUSO CEO makes a good point when he said that drumming up more business will require “a change in mentality from providers from criminalising those who do it to better understanding their motives.”

 “They’re not pirates,” he says, counterintuitively. “Pirates would be the people who are making content available illegally. Often the audience are not doing it for financial gain—they’re doing it because they want to watch something.”

 “They’re not pirates. Pirates would be the people who are making content available illegally. Often the audience are not doing it for financial gain—they’re doing it because they want to watch something.”

Andy Chatterley, CEO and founder of MUSO

Both Chatterley and Firth of Kearney say that if the industry can better understand the audience demand and what drives them to “piracy” they can tailor their products to once again be what people want.

It is interesting to see illegal downloading back on the agenda and it seems that a lot of the industry has not learned their lesson from the first time around. Hopefully they figure things out before it becomes the wild wild west again. I for one have cancelled a few of my subscriptions this year due to price, ads and the lack of quality shows — and if Amazon didn’t offer more than just shows with Prime that would be gone too after they sneakily inserted ads into my shows.

In the meantime, remember that every one of our free to air TV channels in Australia offer a fairly extensive catalogue of shows and movies and I encourage you to check them out. Sure, you might get ads, but they are free. ABC iView and SBS OnDemand are my go-to these days.