The upsurge in Hong Kong of pirated TV boxes poses a major threat to the subscription video industry
In a newly released Casbaa survey of the content viewing behaviour of Hong Kong consumers, it was revealed that close to one in four consumers (24%) use a TV box which can be used to stream pirated television and video content. These TV boxes, also known as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs), allow users to access hundreds of thousands of pirated television channels and video-on-demand content, usually with the payment of a one-time fee. TV boxes BossTV (9%), Ubox (7%), EVPad (6%), Lingcod (5%), and Magic Box (4%), which come pre-loaded with applications allowing ‘plug-and-play’ access to pirated content, are among the most popular ISDs amongst Hong Kong consumers. Over 350 ISDs were recently seized in a Hong Kong Customs enforcement operation (Operation Trojan Horse) resulting in the arrest of four shop owners and four salespersons, all of whom were subsequently charged with copyright offences.
The survey, commissioned by Casbaa’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), and conducted by YouGov, also highlights the effects of streaming piracy on legitimate online subscription services. Of the 24% of consumers who purchased an ISD, half (49%) claimed that they had cancelled all or some of their subscriptions to legal pay TV services. More than one in four (26%) claimed that they cancelled their subscription to local pay TV services as a direct consequence of owning an ISD. Nineteen percent (19%) stated that they had cancelled a specific part of their traditional cable TV bundle or packages after purchasing an ISD. International subscription services were also not immune to the prevalent usage of ISDs in Hong Kong – more than one in five (21%) users who had purchased an ISD said that they had cancelled their international subscription service that was available to them in Hong Kong.
Cancelling legitimate subscription services and paying less for access to pirated content is fraught with risks, as Neil Gane, Managing Director for Casbaa’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) comments, “The damage that content theft does to the creative industries is without dispute. However, the damage done to consumers themselves, because of the nexus between content piracy and malware, is only beginning to be recognised. The piracy ecosystem is a hotbed for malware, whether purchasing ISDs from Sham Shui Po’s Golden Arcade or downloading content from infamous torrent sites. Unfortunately the appetite for free or paying cheap subscription rates for stolen content, blinkers some consumers from the real risks of malicious malware infection such as spyware”.
Of those consumers who own an ISD, about half of respondents (49%) claim to have purchased their illicit streaming device from Sham Shui Po, a popular local electronics hotspot. The survey also found that some of the world’s top e-retail stores and social media platforms are preferred destinations where Hong Kong consumers acquire their ISDs and other devices used for pirating video content from.
In addition to the short-term problem of cancelled subscriptions is a longer term problem – namely, many of the people using ISDs are young. The survey found that ISDs are particularly favoured among 25-34 year-olds and high income earners with university degrees.
“The illicit streaming device (ISD) ecosystem is impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content”, said Louis Boswell, CEO of Casbaa. “ISD piracy is also organised crime, pure and simple, with crime syndicates making substantial illicit revenues from the provision of illegally re-transmitted TV channels and the sale of such ISDs.”
Casbaa’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) includes leading video content creators and distributors in Asia. Members include: beIN Sports, Casbaa, Discovery, The Walt Disney Company, Fox Networks Group, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, CANAL+, Cignal, La Liga, Media Partners Asia, National Basketball Association, PCCW Media, Singtel, Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia, TVB, True Visions, TV5MONDE, and Viacom International Media Networks.