Analysts Question MPAA’s Findings on Film Piracy

Pointing to the growing number of movie downloaders worldwide, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is complaining that the practice is harming the movie industry significantly.

Through a commissioned study of moviegoers and downloaders, the MPAA reported that about one in four Internet users has downloaded a movie. Of those, 17 percent reported less frequent purchases of theater tickets or legitimate copies, according to the research.

However, industry observers such as Yankee Group senior analyst Mike Goodman said that although the numbers appear to be accurate, the MPAA is using incomplete reporting to paint a picture that is far from reality.

“They neglect to show the other side of it, which is really misleading,” Goodman told TechNewsWorld. “It’s just the fact that they’re hiding the other number. If 17 percent are going to the movies less, what about the other 83 percent?”

Disturbing Downloading

The MPAA said that the number of Internet users downloading movies is growing as more than half indicate they expect to continue and nearly two of ten nondownloaders report they are likely to start getting movies online in the future.

“Although they profess to be active moviegoers, a large percentage of downloaders claim to be attending movies less often than they have in the past,” the MPAA said in a press release.

The study showed that the availability of free movies online was consistently ranked among the top reasons for users actually downloading copies, but there were other reasons too — such as the perception that movies are too expensive.

Do Downloads Help?

Yankee’s Goodman said that although the 17 percent of downloaders attending movies less frequently falls right in line with Yankee’s figure of 16 percent, the MPAA failed to reveal similar Yankee findings that three times as many downloaders reported increased movie attendance.

Goodman said that 43 percent of movie downloaders reported going to the movies the same amount, while 41 percent said they were going more.

“Not only is it having no effect, these are your best [movie] customers,” Goodman said. “These people are more aficionados, and [downloading] has no effect on their moviegoing behavior.”

MPAA spokesperson Phuong Yokitis told TechNewsWorld that a comparison between the association’s study and Yankee’s study was “apples to oranges.” The MPAA did not produce figures on the other 83 percent of downloaders and the impact of online movies on their behavior.

Fans Before File-Traders

Goodman argued that movie fans watch motion pictures in multiple forms and often watch the same movie more than once in different forms as well.

He also said that the recent 4 percent drop in movie attendance can be attributed to other factors — such as the number of movie “dogs” that fail to draw in moviegoers — more than downloading.

“You have an increase in dogs — there’s your 4 percent,” Goodman said.

The MPAA study highlighted Korea as a region of concern because six of 10 Internet users reported downloading movies. Of those downloaders, one in three reported less movie attendance. The MPAA did not have figures on the number of U.S. Internet users downloading movies, but Yokitis conceded it was likely small.

Goodman said that of U.S. broadband-connected homes, only 3 percent reported downloading movies, which includes a small number of legitimate downloads.

Home Theater Help

The MPAA indicated that movie downloads are likely to increase with broadband penetration and improvements in compression technology, but Goodman indicated there are still other issues holding back movie downloads.

“You still have a major technological hurdle and that is [when people say] ‘I want to watch movies on my TV, not on my PC,'” Goodman said. “You’re tied to your computer now.”

The analyst reported that media-center PCs and networking to the television are major factors because 61 percent of survey respondents said they were more likely to download video if the TV and computer are networked.

“When you enable a download that is networked for the TV, interest increases dramatically,” Goodman said.

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