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New Study: Release Windows, Not BitTorrent, Driving Box Office Losses

Posted by: , 16:49 AEDT, Sat February 11, 2012

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A new study finds that box office losses in international markets are more to do with delayed releases, than the availability of pre-release downloads on BitTorrent

A new study has found that International box office losses are more to do with release windows, than BitTorrent.

The new paper, titled 'Reel Piracy: The Effect of Online Film Piracy on International Box Office Sales', was written by researchers from the University of Minnesota and Wellesley College, and it set out to look for any links between the availability of pre-release piracy via BitTorrent networks, and the effect it has on movie box office.

This relationship has long been taken for granted, especially by the MPAA, Hollywood's anti-piracy lobbyists. And at first glance, the relationship seems to be supported by data the researchers founds.

"Our findings indicate that, as a lower bound, international box office returns in our sample were at least 7% lower than they would have been in the absence of pre-release piracy," the study found.

However, when it came to the same situation in the US, the data did not support the same conclusions. "We do not see evidence of elevated sales displacement in US box office revenue following the adoption of BitTorrent," the report said.

In other words, because pre-release piracy does not seem to cause box office losses in the US, but it does cause a 7% decrease in international markets, the researchers conclude that there must there must be some other factor in play. 

And that factor, the researchers say, is international release windows - the delay between releasing films in the US and elsewhere. "We find that longer release windows are associated with decreased box office returns, even after controlling for film and country fixed effects." the study finds, before finally concluding that "we suggest that delayed legal availability of the content abroad may drive the losses to piracy".

In other words, the researchers are finding that box office losses are more to do with delayed releases overseas, than BitTorrent usage, and the longer the release window, the higher the losses. 

So while the movie industry is within its rights to want to deter online piracy, perhaps it would better serve the industry to look in-house first to find ways to increase revenue.


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