Consumption of unlicensed content on the up among Americans
August 2nd, 2023, Mike Woods

Consumption of unlicensed content on the up among Americans

Amid rising costs and stricter implementation of password sharing policies, are consumers now leaning toward watching content on unauthorized sites if the alternative is paid subscriptions?

Last year over a quarter of Americans (28%) indicated that they search for content from unauthorized sources as an alternative to paid sources of content. Data from a recent YouGov Surveys: Serviced study shows that the share has now increased to a third of consumers (33%). An almost equal share of consumers say they don’t seek out unlicensed content (35%).

When we look through the lens of income, data shows that those earning less than $40k are more likely to agree that they actively seek content like sports, TV shows, music, among others, on free-to-use unlicensed sites (38%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the proportion keeps reducing as the income bracket increases. Even so, around a third of consumers earning between $40k to $79.9k (34%) and over $80k (32%) say they actively search for content from unlawful sources.

Americans are most likely to say they exclusively or mostly watch content from legitimate streaming platforms, with over half of the population (52%) indicating as much.

Yet a sizeable minority of consumers (15%) of consumers say they watch exclusively/ mostly from unauthorized sites. Around two in ten men say they watch most of their content from unlicensed sites – a significantly higher share than women who say they do the same (21% vs. 10%).

Around one in eight Americans (13%) consume content on both unauthorized sites and legitimate streaming platforms in about equal measure. Women are slightly more likely than men to watch both legal and pirated content (15% vs. 12%).

Among American adults who watch content on unlicensed sites instead of getting their own streaming subscriptions, cost is the biggest reason why (29%) and is an equally cited factor among members of all income groups.

Not wanting to subscribe to multiple streaming services is another major reason why over a third of Americans (37%) say they are resorting to unauthorized sites. Around two-fifths of consumers earning between $40k to $79.9k (38%) and over $80k (40%) also cite the same reason.

Around a third of unauthorized site users (32%) do so for access to a broader range of content. Availability of new releases sooner (25%) and content not being available in their region (25%) are other reasons why Americans choose to watch content on unlicensed sites.

If streaming services collaborated to offer a bundled subscription package with multiple platforms at a discounted price, over half of Americans who watch content on unauthorized sites say they are likely to choose that option (55%).

Around 14% of Americans are unlikely to take up bundled subscriptions with nearly one in ten (9%) saying it’s very unlikely for them to pay for even a discounted subscription.

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provides quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on June 26-27, 2023, with a nationally representative sample of 1,169 adults in the United States (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education, region and race to be representative of all adults. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.

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