Piracy and illegal streaming continue to siphon billions from the entertainment industry according to a recent report from the US Chamber of Commerce. The losses attributed to digital piracy total an estimated $30 billion annually in the US alone with the global impact topping $71 billion per year. These staggering figures highlight the challenges streaming platforms face in turning a profit.
The report estimates over 130 subscription-based piracy sites operate in the US, using automated software to instantly copy and distribute copyrighted films and TV shows. These unauthorized platforms manage to achieve profit margins up to 90% by relying on subscriptions and advertising revenue, raking in about $2 billion per year.
Since 2020, usage of pirate sites has skyrocketed from 105 billion to over 140 billion visits. The top three piracy platforms each boast around 2 million paying subscribers, charging $5 to $10 per month for unlimited access to pirated content. As legitimate services continue raising prices and limiting password sharing, piracy sites offer an appealing alternative to frustrated consumers, many of whom are unaware the content is illegal.
Organized crime has also capitalized on the demand for pirated entertainment. Russian crime rings have been known to record films directly in theaters, then upload copies to sites they also use for illegal gambling operations.
However, industry coalitions like the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment have fought back, shutting down over 1,100 piracy sites in North America since 2018. But the battle continues globally as pirated content has grown nearly 40% for films and 9% for TV shows outside the US just last year, particularly in countries like India and Russia.
Piracy’s toll on the entertainment industry is clear. Billions in lost revenue coupled with hundreds of thousands of lost jobs paint a dire picture. For streaming platforms struggling to stay profitable, curbing illegal distribution is essential to their survival. Consumers also need to understand the costs of seemingly “free” content. In the end, we all pay for piracy.