Cinema Census illustrates massive impact of streaming (and piracy decline)

Movie streaming services have changed everything about how Kiwis watch movies at home. That’s one of the conclusions of the 2018 Cinema Census, which saw Flicks investigate the movie-watching behaviour of nearly 5000 citizens of Aotearoa.

As expected, significant changes have taken place since the last Cinema Census in 2015—see the past results here—and this is found nowhere more strongly than outside the cinema itself.

Welcomely, despite massive changes elsewhere in the industry, regular cinema attendance is actually on the rise among respondents, with 68% of those surveyed going to the cinema at least once per month, up from 60% in 2015.

Describing physical media as dead may be premature, but it is a format that is in steep decline in the face of digital viewing. 53% of Kiwis hardly ever watch Blu-rays or DVDs, while nearly one in five (19.7%) never watch physical formats at all.

That’s not surprising, given the explosive rise of online viewing. Regular viewing (defined here and elsewhere in the Census as at least once per month) of online content has risen from 51% of respondents in 2015 to 84.5% today. It’s streaming that makes up the lion’s share of this statistic: 59% never rent or buy online.

While the volume of content on New Zealand streaming services may not match their international counterparts, we’ve learned to embrace multiple providers. 40% of the Census have at least 2 streaming services, and one in ten respondents have at least 3.

As one would expect, Netflix dominates statistics, with a staggering 81% of respondents subscribing to the streaming giant.

When it comes to illegal viewing (both illegal streaming and downloading), both Aotearoa’s behaviours and attitudes have changed.

Respondents are less “fine” about illegal viewing than they used to be—14.9% of people are fine with it now as opposed to 24%.  But the % of those “outright opposed” remains around one third (34% now vs 33%).

There’s been growth in the number of those who “feel a bit bad about it – but everyone’s doing it” from 44% in 2015 to 51.1% now, which shows that despite massive growth in legal streaming services, piracy remains a significant part of the movie-watching landscape.

Heavy consumption of pirated content is on the decline, though, with streaming services replacing illegal viewing as the predominant source of movies outside the cinema. Among Census respondents watching movies online, the proportion of those watching illegally “most of the time” has dropped massively from 43% to 7.7%.

While watching illegally “never” has increased from 42% to 58.7%, watching illegally “sometimes” has also increased in the past few years from 15% to 33.6%.

These statistics suggest New Zealand movie-watchers have become more sophisticated, and are watching films from a wider variety of sources than before—albeit illegally some of the time.

The good news is that the numbers also indicate that those who solely watched illegal content in 2015 have now moved to paying for it some or all of the time, a positive development given how the spectre of piracy was presented as a death knell for the movie business.

There’s one awful piece of news to convey though—30% of New Zealanders watch movies on their phones.