Box office records in 2015 despite increased piracy

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

January 13, 2016

Piracy is destroying the entertainment industry. This is something that we have been encouraged to believe by the big production houses and mainstream media outlets, but is it true? In 2015, Game of Thrones was once again the most pirated TV show of the year, and yet despite this, the popular fantasy television series also gained viewers – premiering to a larger audience than ever before.

When it was given the acclaimed title of most pirated show of the year the first time in 2013, the show’s creator said that the result was ‘better than winning an Emmy’ so massive was the surge in viewing figures that resulted from the free publicity. Publicity, this is the crucial thing that results from piracy that is often ignored or purposely obscured by the – hungry for profit – studios.  The creator of GOT is known to have said that piracy was the driving force behind making the show a cultural force.

Now, newly emerging statistics are reinforcing that rhetoric. Demonstrating levels of unprecedented economic success in an industry that has repeatedly told us that it is suffering, and will continue to suffer greatly unless something is done about the internet (and the dreaded piracy that comes along with it).

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In 2015, the movie industry made significantly more profit than ever before. In North America, the $11 billion threshold (considered a target since 10 billion was surpassed back in 2009) was finally smashed – with total revenue for the year coming in at $11.3 billion. That is a 9% improvement on 2014, quite a considerable leap when you take into account the industries’ constant nagging that something has to be done about piracy (and the losses it is causing for the economy).

Worldwide that upward trend has only been reinforced, with Rentrak estimating that the data from 25,000 theatres around the globe reveals gross earnings of $38 billion – the highest sum ever recorded. It is not only revenue that is demonstrating an improvement for the poor, hard done by, entertainment industry either. In North America, ticket sales were also up 5% – quite the growth – for an industry that ought to be slowly suffocating.

Staggeringly – despite the same sob story – the music industry has also been showing signs of economic growth where there should be none (if you were to believe the scaremongering of its largest publishers). A 2010 industry-backed report claimed that,

‘A quarter of a million British jobs in the music, film, TV, software and other creative industries could be lost over the next five years if online piracy continues at its current rate, according to a study backed by European unions and the TUC.

Across the EU, as many as 1.2 million jobs are in jeopardy as piracy looks set to strip more than €240bn (£218bn) in revenues from the creative industries by 2015 unless regulators can stem the flow.’

At the end of those five years, however, those statistics have been shown to be wildly mistaken. In 2013, Britain saw increased music exports of 57%. Receipts from purchases demonstrated profit increases for individual British musicians of 6% (when compared to the year before). The upward trend, in fact, has been so noticeable that the UK’s minister for culture referred to it as one of the UK’s ‘biggest success stories.’


While the Internet (and piracy that comes along with it) is often cited as the reason for a much suffering (and sure to die away) music industry, a report by BPI actually revealed that in 2014 Brits streamed a whopping 14.8m tracks. That is almost double the 7.5m tracks streamed in 2013 and accounted for 12.6% of overall UK music consumption for that year: a statistic that reveals a (not often discussed) success story about the music industry’s ability to adapt from the old physical sales model and into the online marketplace.

With Netflix now creating revenue streams worldwide, despite the evils of piracy it would appear that on-demand video streaming is also showing that it is not just the music industry – but the entertainment industry as a whole – that is successfully moving into the online marketplace to keep up with modernised uptake methods.

‘The music industry is managing the transitions from physical to digital, PC to mobile and download to streaming at the same time. In that context, I think the industry is performing remarkably well and with a paid subscription model, we are building a business that is here to stay.’ said (pdf) Edgar Berger, chairman & CEO of Sony Music Entertainment in IFPI’s recent report.

Of course, with an ever increasing global population revenues are bound to have an upward trend, but with studies showing that pirates actually buy more music than ordinary consumers, it would seem that – no matter which way you look at it – the entertainment industry is doing just fine. With sustained growth year on year, despite the greedy industry’s incessant opinion that governments and ISPs must collude to bring an end to the copyright infringement that is cutting into its total possible profits. A fact that makes using a VPN a good ongoing choice, for any person that wants to make the most of the content that is so often available (early, or for free) via the internet. 

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