Oct 29th, 2022, 09:00 AM

You Wouldn’t Steal a Car, Why Steal a Movie?

By Anastassia de Bailliencourt
Image Credit: Unsplash/Molly Sivaram
Students explain why they choose to illegally stream content online.

As a great way to consume media, from watching movies and live events, to listening to music, streaming has become a massively popular form of content consumption in recent years. But there's a cost associated with it too, and some people are getting good at dodging that.

Most streaming services are affordable, and range from around €6.00 for basic plans to only about €50.00 for the most expensive packages. For example, Disney+ costs only about €9.00 a month, and Netflix is launching its cheapest plan in November, which will cost only €5.99 a month and includes ads. “I like Netflix a lot, it gives you a variety of shows for the money that you put in," said Leigh Lucaßen, a senior at AUP. "It has a very fair deal.” 

Netflix was the industry leader for years, and was home to plenty of movies and TV shows from Disney, HBO, and other companies that now have their own platforms. As those new platforms have been built out by different companies, though, Netflix's library has shrank, and consumers have been forced to subscribe to multiple platforms to get the same content they used to get in one place. That begs the question, is it worth it to be subscribed to so many different platforms?

Industry statistics suggest it isn't. In 2021, Netflix had 219.7 million paying members, seeing massive growth year after year. But earlier this year, Netflix announced that it lost 200,000 subscribers, blaming increased competition in the market. Their subscription numbers have since improved, however the company still says it is working on finding new monetization strategies amidst increased competition, like by reducing the amount of accounts people are sharing. 

Some students say they regularly find ways to watch movies and shows on illegal websites.

Students at AUP said they usually gravitate toward 123Movies, Soap2Day, or KissAnime, all three of which offer pirated versions of movies and TV shows on free, advertisement-laden websites. “I usually use 123movies because they are the easiest, highest quality and have the most options,” said AUP student Philippe Geoffrion. Streaming movies from an unlicensed website technically makes it illegal, though prosecution is more commonly against the people hosting illegal streaming sites rather than the people watching them.

Some students gravitate towards illegal websites because they believe Netflix “has a bad habit of canceling good shows on cliff hangers and renewing bad shows that no one wants,” said AUP student Tatum Staab. Students believe it’s easier to access the shows that have been canceled on websites, such as 123Movies, or MyFlixer. Netflix has responded to these concerns on its website, saying that, “Though we strive to keep the titles you want to watch, some titles do leave Netflix because of licensing agreements.”

“I stream on Netflix but sometimes I have to stream using alternative means because Netflix has limited options," said Geoffrion. "There's not always what you want  available and with the absolute surplus of services, watching a specific thing is often impossible.”

Other students do not even consider piracy to be morally wrong, or don't see it as being harmful to anyone. “The ethical concerns never come up when I think about it, I never about as moral or immoral," said Lucaßen. "If it’s convenient for me, I’ll do it.”

Students recognize the risks of streaming things illegally as less of a legal challenge, and more of a risk to their privacy and technology. The advertisements on streaming sites are notorious for carrying with them viruses and scams. According to Lucaßen, they don’t use their “laptop when [they] illegally stream websites, because [they]don’t want to get a virus, so I only use my IPad.”

Image Credit: Unsplash/Jakob Owens

Geographic location also affects student streaming preferences. Depending on where you live, the selection of shows and movies will be different, in large part due to the varying licensing costs by country. What one streaming service offers in one country will likely be different from their selection in a different country.

“I like French Netflix, it has a lot of good options. I don’t like US Netflix as much.” Staab said. 

“Earlier this year, I wanted to watch 'Our Flag Means Death' which was not out on any streaming platforms yet.” Leigh responds. In addition to, or instead of, watching shows on illegal sites, some students use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to geolocate their IP address in a different part of the world so as to access different content than is available where they live. 

How should companies get these students to come back to them? Lucaßen said it all comes down to quality. “If Netflix were more careful of what the people are actually trying to get out of it, it would remain a popular service for a lot of people."