Sweden – An Online Tortuga

Piracy Surging, Normalized in Nordic Market

Klas Palmqvist is a key player in the anti-piracy efforts of Swedish industry association Sveriges Videodistributörers Förening. At the Nostradamus Project’s Swedish Seminar in October, 2015, he presented recent statistics on piracy in the Nordic Countries. See the full presentation in Swedish, or read an English summary below.

Swedish distributor organisation Sveriges Videodistributörers Förening has for some years commissioned an annual report from Mediavision on piracy in the Nordic countries. The latest is from this spring, with 1500 respondents between 15 and 74 years of age (which means the not insignificant number of under-fifteens watching content illegally are not represented in the following statistics).

In spite of the industry’s best efforts, piracy is increasing drastically: a 25% increase between 2014 and 2015 – from 3.1. million units to 3,9. Viewing from illegal sources is about 5 times as big as the legal transactions from purchases, rentals and box office.

In the Nordic countries, especially Sweden, the behaviour has become almost entirely normalised.

Illegal downloading shows little change between 2014 and 2015. The growth in piracy is driven by illegal streaming of both film and TV shows, as well by the increase in mobile devices. The tendency observed in legal services to increasingly view video content on the move is equally reflected in illegal viewing patterns.

Comparing the Nordic countries, Denmark and Finland show only marginal increases, while piracy in Sweden and Norway is surging. In Sweden, 32 % of the population watch content illegally at least once a month; making 2,3 million Swedes so-called pirates – a 39% increase in only 12 months. Variations in anti-piracy efforts and the legal situation are at the core of this difference. Denmark and Finland block access to piracy web sites (although Norway has recently introduced this measure) and Denmark has also made pirate streaming illegal, which it is technically not in the rest of the Nordic market.

The survey asked about reasons for illegal viewing. Illegal downloaders name access to recent content as their top reason; bit torrent services often have camcorded copies of recent international titles. Other important reasons are access to a wide variety of titles; convenience; that it’s free, and so on. As for illegal streaming, the most important reason there is that it’s free.

Klas Palmqvist observes that the price point is obviously the hardest for the industry to counter, but adds that in other studies they’ve made, people asked why they don’t use TVOD (online rental services) say that it’s too expensive. But those who do use these services find them very convenient and the SEK 39 price quite reasonable.

The survey also asked respondents to consider a situation where they would stop watching illegal content – for a variety of reasons including ethical considerations, technical barriers, or higher risks of getting caught. Most report they’d be likely to stop if legal alternatives were more affordable, although most of these reasons represent some potential to work with. Significantly, 41% suggest they would stop watching illegally streamed content if watching it was also made illegal – a clear signal to the political leadership.

75 % of Swedish respondents report they would be willing to pay for the films they see if they were to stop accessing the illegal sources. Asked to estimate a budget, the responses work out to approximately SEK 1 billion spent on film content annually – Swedish as well as international. (Editor’s comment: the number is likely to be inflated, but even if it were grossly so, the number is of significant size).

“We have to dare to get a little more practical, a little tougher, and dare to take conflicts to achieve a solution,” Klas Palmqvist said. “I don’t think we should be angry, we’v spent far too much time in the past being angry at each other. We have to sit down and talk about what we can do instead of fingerpointing or demanding changes only in the legal system. If they do something and we do nothing, nothing will happen in the end.”

Palmqvist then addressed the traditional conflict between ISP:s and the industry.

“We can’t only talk about the ISPs having to do something. We have to do this together. And I think we’ll have to keep reporting the illegal services to the authorities. Swedish police today are good at investigating these kinds of crimes.”

Controversially, the industry is ready to also report individual users to the police as part of a wider effort on many fronts.

“There is no threat to the consumer at all today and if we want a law, we have to use it too,” Palmqvist said. “ It is a small conflict, because we don’t actually want to target out customers, they’re our buddies, but here we do have to act. We have to demand damages. We believe in blocking access. We believe in following the money – keeping advertisers on illegal sites responsible. As you have probably read, the Association of Swedish Advertisers is telling its members now about sites they should not be present at. I’ve already spoken about the law… We believe in communication, behavior change. And we also believe the industry has to be better, clearer in its offer of services. We have to create better services and we do have to change our business models.”

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Klas Palmqvist is responsible for digital distribution and business development at Nordisk film in Sweden and has more than 25 years’ experience of the entertainment industry. He has been CEO of a number of media companies, most recently PAN Vision Publishing AB, and was a partner of Spiderbox Entertainment, acquired by Nordisk Film. He is also responsible for piracy issues at SVF (Sveriges Videodistributörers Förening).

The Nostradamus Project is a collaboration between Göteborg Film Festival/Nordic Film Market and Lindholmen Science Park, supported by the City of Göteborg, the Västra Götaland Region and Göteborg & Co. Nostradamus analyses changes in the film and TV industries with a focus on the next 3-5 years.

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Nostradamus editor, johanna.koljonen@rundfunkmedia.se

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