What We Can Learn From Pirate Sites


Currently, the internet is littered with pirate sites that offer viewers free, often illegal access to TV shows, movies, live sports and music. These sites also include audience engagement solutions to build invested communities. What consumers often fail to realize though, is that by streaming something for free, their seemingly insignificant action becomes part of a much larger problem: billions of people are contributing to digital theft. That theft is making it extremely challenging for content owners and legitimate streaming services to succeed. 

MUSO, an anti-piracy watchdog organization, found that just this past June the movie Detective Pikachu was downloaded a whopping four million times via pirate sites. That’s a potential four million consumers that should be (but probably aren’t) paying to watch the movie in theaters or accessing it through subscription services.

“It would seem that a lot of modern-day pirates are merely frazzled parents who wouldn’t dream of stealing their Friday night bottle of chilled Riesling from the grocery store but don’t want to pay the same amount to watch the latest TV phenomenon,” says Andy Chatterley, MUSO’s CEO. “Online piracy is like taking candy from a baby.”

Unfortunately, pirate sites tend to offer more than an often all-encompassing library of media: they’re also experts at providing a great user experience for their visitors. Streaming something illegally is almost too easy thanks to their audience engagement solutions. 

If media streaming service providers want to be successful in this highly competitive climate, here’s what they need to do before they can walk in the right direction: 

Leverage an Audience Engagement Solution

One area that pirate sites excel at is building communities around their content. While regular streaming providers can’t compete with the breadth of content found within pirate sites, they can do a better job at engaging and building their own communities.

Many of these pirate sites rely on commenting tools and comment forums like Reddit, where consumers often go to find illegal streams. Highly engaging conversations are then built as people say thanks to those who provide the streams as well as comment on the overall quality and content. By providing people with valuable content, and engaging them, pirate sites are able to convert visitors into loyal community members and advocates.

Some pirate sites also use commenting as well as rating and review tools to allow their community members to help flag bad or fake files. This helps to build up visitors’ trust towards these platforms and encourages them to return.

Although these pirate sites spark an impressive audience engagement solution, it’s mostly based on people exchanging ideas over what content is worth stealing — which is a type of engagement that you don’t want to have on your platforms.

So why not beat these pirate sites at their own game? Give people valuable content that is enhanced with opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations. In other words, giving them a platform to engage with one another will allow them to form relationships around the content that they like or dislike.

Streaming experiences can then be enhanced. Think about implementing moderated commenting tools, live chats for sports or event coverage, live blogging or ratings and reviews.

Audiences love viewing your content and love talking about their favorite content. Make sure both of those activities are happening on your platforms.

Collect Data to Personalize the Experience

When it comes to an audience engagement solution for streaming service providers, personalization is key to building a superior experience for consumers.

Take sports games, for instance. The ability to target content based on a fan’s favorite team or player will allow you to significantly improve their experience just by understanding their likes and dislikes.

Pirate sites are completely free to users, which also means visitors often don’t need to login or develop an account to consume content. Those who visit pirate sites even make an effort to protect their identities using tools like VPNs or incognito mode. As a result, the majority of their audience is anonymous. Their visitors also run the risk of being infected by malware as many pirate sites make money by allowing hackers to put malicious code onto their platforms.

And that gives media organizations an advantage: the ability to create a much more personalized and pleasant user experience.

First-party audience engagement data will help you to not only curate a highly-relevant selection of content for consumers, but it will also allow you to understand general behavior on your platform to inform your content, subscription and retention strategies.

As you get to know your audience’s interests and build loyalty-driving habits, you can also identify which users are no longer engaging with your content and are likely to churn. This information can then be used to send your known users exclusive content, a custom offer or discount to keep them invested in your brand.

Pirate sites aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So give consumers a compelling reason to dish out some money in exchange for your content.

Interested in learning more about audience engagement solutions? Then check out this article: Audience Engagement Data is About to Amp Up Sports Media.

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