Since online piracy started becoming a thing in the late 90’s, companies have warned that it cuts into sales. One could argue that piracy can act as a means for generating interest in something, which a person might later purchase. Or that pirates wouldn’t be buying the movies/music that they illegally download anyway. A new study does show a link between movie piracy and lost sales, but it might actually be the studios’ fault.
Depending on where you live in the world, you might get access to Blu-ray and DVD copies of movies sooner or later than other people. This is because Blu-ray and DVD releases are staggered in different regions, to help increase theater ticket sales. Unfortunately, while this may help with theater sales, it’s harming disc sales, thanks to piracy.
A recent academic paper from Carnegie Mellon University has shown that by staggering releases in this way, more people are pirating movies. They’re not necessarily doing it in lieu of purchasing a copy of the movie. Instead, the movie has already been released in another country, and they’re in that period between the theatrical release, and the home release. So why not just download a copy and watch it now?
According to the paper “results suggest that an additional 10-day delay between the availability of digital piracy and the legitimate DVD release date in a particular country is correlated with a 2-3% reduction in DVD sales in that country.”
There are a number of variables that play a factor here, such as the piracy rate of each country. Spain, for instance, has a much higher rate of piracy than most countries. So instead of a 2-3% decrease in DVD sales, it’s closer to 10% in Spain, over the same 10-day delay period.
Prior to the rise of internet piracy, staggered releases were better for the movie industry, as they could get more ticket sales, without worrying about people getting their hands on copies of the film. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and studios would benefit from using the same worldwide release schedules, instead of trying to stagger them.