Nearly half (49%) of internet users in the Philippines access streaming piracy websites or torrent sites, of which a significant proportion have subsequently cancelled TV subscriptions, according to a recent study.
This is a concerning trend for both media owners who spend millions of dollars each year investing in content and their platforms, and Asia-Pacific advertisers who, by and large, intend to increase spend on OTT platforms by between 10-20% in the next year, according to a June poll by WFA and SpotX.
The piracy study was commissioned by the Asia Video Industry Association, which runs the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) programme. It was conducted by YouGov in September with a sample of just over 1,000 respondents.
It found that the proportion of internet users who pirate content skews towards the younger demographic, with 53% of the 25-34 age demographic reporting that they pirate content.
Meanwhile, nearly half (47%) of consumers who accessed piracy sites stated that they had cancelled their subscriptions to both local and international content services.
The study also found that the Philippines now has one of the highest piracy rates in Southeast Asia as neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia have both seen substantial reductions in online piracy over the last 12 months.
In Indonesia, a similar YouGov survey found a significant 55% reduction in internet users accessing piracy services, from 63% in 2019 to 28% in 2020. In Malaysia, the rate of piracy declined by an even more marked 64%, from 61% in 2019 to 22% in 2020.
The declines in both countries correspond to tighter government regulations of piracy sites. For example, in Malaysia more than half (55%) of online consumers noticed that a piracy service had been blocked by the government, which subsequently influenced viewing habits with 49% stating that they no longer accessed piracy services and 40% saying that they now 'rarely accessed' piracy services as a result of the site blocking.
In the Philippines, there is an 'Online Infringement Act' bill currently before the Philippine Senate which proposes a regulatory site blocking mechanism that would empower the authorities to ensure that ISPs take "reasonable steps to disable access to sites whenever these sites are reported to be infringing copyright or facilitating copyright infringement".
The YouGov survey found that Filipinos support heavier regulation of piracy. When given choices of what they thought were effective measures of reducing piracy behaviour, 53% of respondents agreed that a "government order or law for ISPs to block piracy websites" would be the most effective.
When asked about the negative consequences of online piracy, the respondents placed funding crime groups (55%), loss of jobs in the creative industry (50%) and malware risks (49%) as their top three concerns.
Neil Gane, the general manager of AVIA's Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) said Indonesia and Malaysia "will rise to become market leaders in video IP protection in the region" as a result of their site-blocking strategies, adding that the organisation was confident that other countries in Asia such as the Philippines will "take note and follow suit".
Atty Teodoro Pascua, the deputy director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, said piracy "funds crime groups, put consumers at risk of malware infection and are unreliable".
"Piracy only benefits the criminal organisations who are behind these illegal websites," Pascua noted.