Angry Birds CEO sees opportunity in piracy

Rovio CEO Mikael Hed says that treating Angry Birds pirates as "fans" might be good for business.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

With hundreds of millions of downloads of Angry Birds, one would think that Rovio would do everything in its power to fight piracy.

But, that's not the case.

At the Midem conference in Cannes today, Rovio CEO Mikael Hed announced, "Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day."

The Guardian reports that Hed was addressing an audience mainly from the music industry and said he looks to the music industry's mistakes in dealing with piracy. The chief lesson that Hed said he learned is that embracing pirates can attract new fans.

"We took something from the music industry, which was to stop treating the customers as users, and start treating them as fans. We do that today: we talk about how many fans we have," he said. "If we lose that fan base, our business is done, but if we can grow that fan base, our business will grow."

Hed said that trying to sue pirates in court is "futile" and that Rovio would only do so when the Angry Bird brand was harmed or it its fans were deceived.

"We have some issues with piracy, not only in apps, but also especially in the consumer products," he said. "There is tons and tons of merchandise out there, especially in Asia, which is not officially licensed products."

This is one of the reasons why Rovio announced in November that China would be the first country to have Angry Birds retail stores. China is now Rovio's fastest-growing market--next to the U.S.--and the app developer said it hopes that these stores will generate more than $100 million in revenue this year.

Last month, Rovio also announced its plans to go public in 2013 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange--citing the Asian market's growth, as well as its "people and the money," in making its decision to be based there rather than the U.S.