Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre releases report on Streaming with some interesting comments on copyright infringement

The Policy & Evidence Centre, led by Nesta and in collaboration with the University of Glasgow has released a report looking at the changing online culture consumption behaviour amongst UK adults aged 12 and above. The conclusions of the report do not suggest that everyone will become a digital streamer of content, but rather the propensity to stream varies strongly with age. In addition to this conclusion, the report has some interesting conclusions regarding online copyright infringement.

The report concludes that age and social class predict the participation in streaming and the report does not support the narrative that everyone will become a digital streamer. It is not discussed in the report whether those who have adopted streaming as a way of consuming content now will continue to stream as they get older but reflects on past activity and uptake. The issue of awareness of legal options and copyright infringement is the focus of the comments below.

Consumer Consumption Trends

The report had some interesting findings in regards to the trends of digital consumption. Digital consumers are much more likely to be younger for audiovisual content and video games, but not for ebooks. Men are more likely to be gamers than women and the middle class is much more likely that the working class to digitally consume content (TV, music and books). However, unlike the propensity to consume digitally, spending on digital consumption does not have a straightfoward association with age.

The report states:

As one of the key innovations of the 2010s in how we consume culture, streaming is likely to continue to become more important to the creative industries in the next decade.

PEC research report – Streaming culture

In fact, from 2013 to 2018 digital streaming was more popular than downloading for all audiovisual content. By 2018 it was around 3x more popular for downloading music videos, TV programmes, films and short videos. Streaming, it appears, is the future of accessing and consuming digital content.

Use of revenue data

The report also interpreted the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) aggregation of UK revenue data. The data shows that within the last five years, streaming has grown into the single largest source of revenue for the music industry. In 2015 streaming in the USA overtook both physical sales and digital downloads. In 2016 streaming overtook downloads and in 2017 it overtook physical sales. These figures support the conclusion that we are moving towards a consumption model based around streaming rather than holding physical copies (or even storing downloads).

Brand recognition of cultural platforms

The report also explores the awareness of legal vs copyright infringing options for consuming content. It proposes an additional reason for explaining infringing behaviours – the relatively low brand recognition of legal options.

This conclusion is reached following numerous studies having concluded that the improvements in the availability from legal channels has decreased illegal consumption. The report notes that awareness of legitimate digital platforms is not as high as you might think. Similarly, brand recognition is not as high as you may think. The report states:

the brand recognition of some digital consumption platforms can be significantly improved. In fact, according to the survey, in 2018, among a list of over 70 legal platforms, only 8 were recognised by more than 50% of the user population (people who had streamed TV in the past three months).

This figure may seem low, but when considering the number of website that individuals visit to watch, listen or read online it is probably to be expected. Most consumers will have a favourite platform (or two) for each content category and watch/listen/read the majority of their content via that platform. Extend this to each medium of content consumption and eight well known platforms becomes a far more reasonable number.

The report is worth reading for anyone interested in digital content consumption and shows that there is work to be done if each age and socio-economic group is to take part in the uptake of streaming. With a greater number of legitimate platforms becoming available, infringing activity is likely to (and has been shown to) decrease. Whether the increasing brand recognition for legitimate platforms (which will no doubt have increased further due to COVID-19) will cause a continuing decrease in copyright infringement remains to be seen.

The full report is available here: Research Report on Streaming Culture

Referenced works:

Quintais, J.P. & Poort, J. (2018) The Decline of Online Piracy: How Markets-Not Enforcement-Drive down Copyright Infringement. American University International Law Review 34, 807. Available:

Watson, S.J., Zizzo, D.J., Fleming, P. (2015) Determinants of Unlawful File Sharing: A Scoping Review. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127921. Available: unlawful-file-sharing-a-scoping-review/ (CREATe working paper 2014/5) (PLoS ONE 10/6)

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