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Survey: Pirate Sites Draw $200M-Plus in Ad Revenue

A survey of almost 600 websites identified as illegally offering TV shows and movies online found they generated $209 million in revenue last year from ads running adjacent to the pirated digital content.

The study, "Good Money Still Going Bad," from the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) and MediaLink, said the total is actually down from the $227 million total in the 2013 study, but DCA noted that since some four out of 10 of those sites had been shut down or "shrunk" between the studies, revenue for the two years was comparable.

“What this report shows is that content theft sites can make something while creating nothing while posing real dangers to Internet users who are subjected to malware and other viruses,” said Tom Galvin, DCA executive director, in releasing the latest findings. “Despite the intensified efforts of law enforcement and private industry, the content thieves had another banner year, and that’s bad news for both content creators and consumers who got their computers infected.”

The study found that a third of the sites included links with "the potential to infect users' computers with viruses and other malware."

It also found that the number of name brands with ads running alongside the stolen content had increased from 89 in 2013 to 131 in 2014.

The study was based on 589 sites with 25 or more Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests in Q3 2014, not including porn sites, "hate" sites, sites with mostly user-generated content or sites where the content was not primarily TV and movies.

DCA does not divulge who provides its funding beyond identifying them as "private citizens; the health, pharmaceutical and creative industries; as well as online safety experts and other communities focused on Internet safety." But its mission is clearly to emphasize the impact of online piracy and safety on consumers.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.