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385 per cent spike in piracy ahead of Oscars

Millions of people tuned in last night to see which of their favourite films scooped one of the 87th Academy Awards.

Millions of people tuned in last night to see which of their favourite films scooped one of the 87th Academy Awards, and while the majority of those fans had paid a premium to see these films legally, a large number pirated films ahead of the awards ceremony, according to research by Irdeto.

Irdeto monitored illegal downloads of films in the US and over 200 countries worldwide from 1 January to 14 February. The company revealed that the Academy Awards draws massive consumer interest outside the US, evidenced by a 385 per cent increase in piracy worldwide for nominated films following the announcements on 15 January. While Gone Girl was the early frontrunner before nominations, American Sniper took the lead and is currently the most pirated film in the world post nomination, having been downloaded 1,389,819 times since 15 January. Birdman recieved: 796,697 downloads worldwide since 15 January and was the number one downloaded film in both Mexico and Spain, according to Irdeto’s research.

Nominated films were pirated from a number of formats including Blu-ray discs, HDTV, CAM (cameras), DVD and other sources. However, Hollywood screeners specifically accounted for a substantial 31 per cent of the total illegal downloads tracked between 15 January and 14 February. Hollywood screeners are traditionally Blu-Ray discs or DVDs (although some studios are now moving to online distribution) given to film critics, awards voters and other film industry professionals for an advanced screening. Six nominated movies currently unavailable for retail purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD, VoD or legal streaming/download sites saw the majority of piracy coming directly from these screeners: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Wild, Selma, Whiplash and Still Alice. While not every illegal download can be considered a lost sale, Irdeto estimates a potential over $40 million in retail revenue that could have been captured for these six titles, if they had been made available to consumers.

“Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies to be available earlier, in more geographies and over more platforms,” said Rory O’Connor, VP services, Irdeto and the company’s global expert on online piracy and countermeasures. “In the world of internet re-distribution, the window between theatrical release and worldwide market availability may simply be too long, leaving room for pirates to take advantage and offer consumers alternative means of instant gratification. Today’s consumers simply refuse to wait to access these movies through legitimate services.”

Irdeto found a spike in piracy for almost every country following the 15 January nominations. Outside of the US, the top ten countries that account for the most illegal downloads (totaling over 3 million) are: Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, India, Australia, Spain, South Korea and the Netherlands. Alternatively, the countries with the highest percentage of piracy per internet user population were Australia, Italy, Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

While legal video content in various formats is often available in the US sooner than the rest of the world, the combined illegal downloads for California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania still accounted for 5.8 per cent of total global downloads.

Image: Global piracy activity illustrated in Irdeto’s 2015 Academy Awards Piracy Heat Map