Australian content piracy has radically contracted as IPTV services have shifted the media consumption patterns of Australian viewers, according to the latest research from Nielsen and Screen Australia.

The 2017 ‘Online & On Demand’ report, found that streaming services completely changed how Australians viewed content. The report is based on an online survey of 1,683 Australians aged 14+ who watch professionally produced screen content online. While free-to-air television remained prominent, AVOD services such as YouTube are nearly as widely used and SVOD platforms such as Netflix, with significant audience growth. The report confirmed that the younger Australian demographic are habitual users of new content platforms.

In the three years since the study was previously conducted in 2014, the video-on-demand (VOD) landscape has changed considerably and has seen the introduction of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and Stan into the Australian market.

The report reveals that the SVOD sector including the likes of Netflix, is a clear growth area with 68% of 2017 respondents using such services, compared to 37% in 2014. Use of broadcaster catch-up services has also increased to 87% (from 74% in 2014).

Significantly, three years on, internet connection speeds remain the key barrier (39%) to viewing more VOD content. While 32% of respondents said they would watch more content online if prices were cheaper or if there was more content available (31%).

VOD tames the pirates

Australia was once the leading market for content piracy, yet the 2017 study produced data suggesting a significant decline in content piracy amongst VOD viewers, A mere 17% of respondents suggested they had used unofficial streams or downloads, compared to 43% in 2014. Those aged 25-34 were the most likely to watched via pirated, illegal or unofficial services.

VOD users are still watching content via traditional platforms, with the percentage of people watching broadcast TV each week remaining fairly stable (86% in 2017 vs 90% in 2014, although the 2017 did include time-shift viewing). However, the amount of people accessing content via transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) services like the iTunes store, has decreased considerably (14% in 2017 vs 41% in 2014).

YouTube remains the most used VOD platform, followed by Netflix. ABC iview, Plus7 (now called 7Plus) and Tenplay remain in the top 5 as was the case in 2014.

Demographics define content consumption

SVOD users are shifting their viewing behaviours, with 52% saying they watch less free-to-air and 46% saying they are now less likely to download films and TV programs to rent or own through TVOD services like iTunes or Google Play.

Such behaviours also change with age, unsurprisingly broadcast television remains most popular with those aged 60+ (96%), whereas SVOD is most used with those aged 18-34 (81%). Despite being a new way to access content, broadcaster catch-up services are also popular with 45-59 year olds (88%) and those aged 60+ (92%).

The study shows that 80% of VOD viewers are watching content at home at least weekly, whilst 27% of VOD viewers report watching remotely at least once a month. Smart and connected TVs (e.g. using an Apple TV) have overtaken computers as the most popular device to access VOD content, whilst 25% are now using their smartphones, compared to just 10% in 2014.

In terms of why they are attracted to VOD, users declared that being able to watch what they want, when they want to, as the main drivers for VOD viewing, although the allure of free content and the ability to avoid advertising also registered strongly.