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​If you stream it, they will come: Choice cites 'Netflix effect' for piracy decline

Consumer advocacy group Choice has long said access to timely and affordable content is the best way to stop piracy, and now it has the numbers to prove it.

Louie Psihoyos/Corbis

While consumer advocates, government ministers and even rights holders have long said that piracy rates are reduced by opening access to affordable content in a timely manner, the numbers have finally come through to prove it: Australians are pirating less now that we have more streaming services.

Consumer advocacy group Choice has today released new data that shows a strong link between the arrival of new streaming services in Australia and the drop in piracy rates.

In years past, Australians had access to digital content services such as Quickflix and the now defunct EzyFlix as well as pay TV provider Foxtel. However, in the past year, the entertainment space has had a massive shake-up with subscription video on demand services Netflix and Stan launching, and Foxtel relaunching its Presto streaming service while also dropping its prices.

Choice has dubbed the change the "Netflix Effect," saying this new research proves that Australians are willing to pay for content if it is made available through legitimate means, rather than just through illegal downloads.

"The fact is the number of people regularly pirating in Australia has dropped by a quarter since Netflix launched," said Choice Campains Manager Erin Turner in a statement. In 2014, 23 percent of respondents pirated content at least monthly, compared to 17 percent of respondents in this year's survey.

"This proves once again that making content affordable and easily available is the first and most effective tactic to reduce piracy -- not a draconian internet filter and notice scheme. As a nation we are keen to pay for legal content."

In a survey of 1010 participants, taken from July 2 to 15, 2015, Choice found that 70 percent of respondents said they never download or stream pirated movies or TV shows, up from 67 percent the year before. The proportion of those who have pirated content and do so regularly also dropped while the number of people who use pay per view or subscription services increased.

Turner said the link was clear.

"The increase is directly related to the launch of Netflix in Australia and the emergence of a local streaming industry, with players such as Stan and Presto competing for customers and offering consumers real alternatives to piracy," she said.

However, the statistics also back up previous comments from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said late last year that even the best initiatives are "never going to eliminate all piracy" and a hard core will always remain.

Since subscribing to streaming services, almost half of respondents who had dabbled in the world of torrents said that they were downloading pirated content less often. However, of those who identified as "regular" pirates, the majority were either pirating just as regularly (46 percent) or even more often (14 percent).

But content providers take note: According to Choice's research, those who identify as regular pirates also spent more than the average consumer on legitimate content services, including Foxtel, Netflix, Apple TV and Google Play.