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How can AVOD Video Businesses Battle Content Piracy?

Thomas Wong

Engineering Director, APAC

July 27, 2023


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The rise of ad-funded streaming services has been well documented over the past couple of years. According to Antenna's report, ad-supported plans made up one-in-four of all premium SVOD subscriptions in the US at the end of Q1 2023. We can expect these same trends to be followed globally. With a rise in AVOD services, and several of the media giants introducing ad-funded tiers to their SVOD services, it is clear that there is an appetite for accessing content at a lower cost or for free. However, we are also seeing an increase in global piracy and this naturally poses a real challenge to OTT businesses. We can assume that many or most of the people who are watching pirated content are not willing to pay for SVOD subscriptions, but with so much content now available for free, what can AVOD services do to encourage people to access content legally?

Why do some customers opt to view pirated content?

It is important for video service providers to understand why some consumers opt to stream content illegally. This way, they can optimize their AVOD offerings in a way that encourages more users to step away from piracy and adopt legal, ad-funded options.

The answer to why people revert to piracy is likely complex and reasons may vary from user to user. Some consumers are always going to be drawn to pirated content but the vast majority are more likely to only consume it when it gives them access to something they can’t find elsewhere. This could be because the content is only available on a prohibitively expensive subscription service or restricted to certain geographic regions. With so many consumers turning to AVOD services, it seems unlikely that it is due to the presence of ads themselves; however, too many ads can certainly reflect negatively on the viewing experience.

Assuming that the reasons behind increasing piracy are varied, what are some things AVOD services can do to increase their appeal and entice people away from illegally streamed content?


What can AVOD services do to attract users?

Reduce ad frequency

Needless to say, AVOD video providers need a certain level of advertising in order to effectively monetize their services and make them accessible to users free of charge. At the same time, too many ads can lead to viewers becoming frustrated and moving away from a service. DataReportal’s yearly report in 2023 shows that 36% of internet users use ad blockers, with 60 percent of them claiming there are too many ads. Maintaining the right level of ads to achieve a good level of monetization without annoying viewers is challenging but important to get right. This might require experimentation or user surveys to identify the point where ads start to reflect negatively on the viewing experience. 

Display more relevant and engaging ads

While users generally don’t want to be bombarded with too much advertising, the more relevant and engaging the content, the less likely that it becomes a frustration. When people sign up to an AVOD service, they will be expecting a certain amount of ads. That said, streaming service providers need to have metrics in place to ensure the viewing experience is as personalized as possible - including the serving of relevant ads. According to some studies, 90% of customers say that they get annoyed by ads where the content is not personally relevant. In Deloitte’s 2021 study, and despite a generally low sentiment towards ads, 60% of respondents were satisfied with their viewing experience if the ads were targeted and relevant to them. That said, user privacy is of course absolutely critical, so OTT providers need to find a balance between providing a personalized experience and the responsible handling of customer data.

Better content discoverability and user experience

We have long since championed the point that user experience (UX) is key. If a service is easy to use and exceeds users’ demands and expectations, then it will also be stickier. Further, being able to quickly discover content they want to watch is a huge draw. If users fire up a video service and cannot find something to watch almost immediately, they will simply look elsewhere. They are also less likely to return to a service that they consider to be difficult to use and navigate. 

So UX is key and is an area where AVOD services can really excel compared to piracy sites. Add in the risk of malware and it should be easy to entice people away from piracy with great discoverability, personalized recommendations and a really good general user experience.

Ensure your service is available across multiple devices

This is another way that legitimate services can easily trump the pirates because it is not easy to watch pirated content across all of your devices, and particularly on your smart TV. Yet consumers are increasingly switching between different viewing devices, so offering them legally available content on their chosen device is important. 

Can AVOD truly battle the pirates?

Content piracy has existed for as long as content has been distributed digitally, and cheap and high speed internet makes piracy easier than ever before. It would be unrealistic to think that we will ever see the complete eradication of video piracy. However, for a large proportion of people, it is clear that this is primarily a matter of convenience - an attempt to quickly access the right content and avoid too many irrelevant ad breaks. By delivering the right balance of relevant and engaging ads to content and making content easily discoverable within a great overall user experience, AVOD services stand a good chance of enticing a large portion of viewers away from pirated content.

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