Unlocking the Value of the Piracy Audience

Unlocking the Value of the Piracy Audience

Over the past decade, MUSO has tracked over a trillion visits to piracy websites, building up an unrivalled understanding of fan engagement that delivers measurable audience insights for content owners and brand advertisers.

This article examines the behavioural profile of unlicensed content consumers, how this ‘pirate audience’ is a bellwether of global content consumption trends and how MUSO data can unlock the commercial value of content superfans.


Piracy and the Legal Consumer


Data indicates that piracy or unlicensed audiences represent a wide cross-section of society. In a recent study, The University of Amsterdam used a sample of 35,000 individuals across 13 countries in Europe,

North America and Asia and found that: “unlicensed and legal users are largely the same people: demographically, illegal users resemble legal users quite closely…”

“Global Online Piracy Study”. University of Amsterdam Institute of Information Law (IViR), July 2018

Demographic profiles for unlicensed audiences are, much like legal audiences, driven by content type or genre.

film piracy

film piracy


But where the piracy audience does differ, is in their behaviour. Counter-intuitively, piracy audiences are bigger consumers of legal content.

Where piracy audiences do differ is in their behaviour, interestingly piracy audiences are bigger consumers of legal content.

In the same survey, The University of Amsterdam found that piracy audiences are highly engaged significant consumers of both illegal and legal content:

“..95% or more of illegal users also consume content legally and their median legal consumption is typically twice that of legal users.”

“Global Online Piracy Study”. University of Amsterdam Institute of Information Law (IViR), July 2018


Furthermore, piracy is more common among VoD subscribers.


A different study by the European Commission* analysing audiovisual consumers, showed that of the total sample population, 55% had downloaded or streamed films illegally, with the rate of piracy increasing to 69% with households that had home cinemas and a VOD subscription.

The survey cited many factors for this behaviour but the most important were cost (50%), ease of access (31%) and availability (30%).

The pirate is often a superfan who has a very direct and engaged relationship with the content they are watching.

Piracy, the Bellwether Audience Metric


The term bellwether originally referred to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a ram (wether) that was leading a flock of sheep.

The piracy audience is the bellwether, watching film and TV titles before they are legally available, making it a true predictive indicator of popularity and demand.

MUSO’s TV and film dataset measures piracy audience consumption on over 150,000 film titles and TV series in 242 countries. This data reveals a vast unlicensed audience of first movers, highly engaged and avid content consumers.

MUSO views the piracy ecosystem as the largest video-on-demand platform in the world, where every film or TV series is freely available with no platform exclusives or windowing restrictions, making the piracy audience the largest and one of the most valuable audience measurement data available.

Activating The Audience


The piracy audience is nuanced with title, genre, location and availability playing a role in shaping audiences profiles. MUSO’s data reveals a highly engaged audience that goes to great lengths to illegally stream or download a title, driven by an active relationship with a specific piece of content.

This is a valuable audience for entertainment companies; high-intent customers consuming their content but not currently paying for it.

MUSO Connect enables advertisers to measure and target these audiences via digital advertising, with audience segments made available to the customer in their appropriate digital buying channel.

These segments are modelled on behaviours specific to advertisers’ needs, for example - frequent consumers of a particular genre of content or fans of action genre films who are also active moviegoers.

MUSO Case Study


MUSO provides audience segments to a VoD platform, to power their subscriber acquisition. The customer is enriching their broader campaign targeting by including segments of highly engaged superfans. These segments target high-frequency consumers of films and TV shows relevant to the titles available on the customer’s VoD platform.

The segments are delivering a click-through rate of 30% above the campaign average.

In Summary


Piracy audience data offers rich and predictive insight into content consumption. It behaves as a leading demand indicator, useful for content strategies and customer acquisition.

To find about more about how MUSO Discover and MUSO Connect can unlock the value of a highly engaged audience, please contact us at hello@muso.com



MUSO is a data company that provides the most complete and trusted view of unlicensed media consumption and global piracy demand. MUSO’s unrivalled dataset measures a vast high intent audience that is not influenced by licensing restriction or platform bias. Whether protecting IP or building winning content strategies, MUSO helps companies make better decisions that drive performance, ROI and value.


* ”A Profile of Current and Future Audiovisual Audience.” European Commission Media, 2014