3 in 5 Brits admit law breaking TV viewing habits

News, TV

The majority of Brits are prepared to bend or break the rules to either get extra streaming services, watch pay-per-view (PPV) events and movies or avoid paying for their TV licence.

Research by streaming service WatchTVAbroad.com reveals that in total 62% have done something illegal for the sake of their small screen viewing, with this rising to 85% among those aged 18-24.

Last month, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office said that sharing passwords for streaming services like Netflix was a breach of copyright laws, yet a quarter (24%) of Brits admit to piggybacking on the accounts of friends or family. Later this year, Netflix is planning to roll out a new verification system in the US whereby anyone from another household wanting to use the main subscriber’s account will have to pay an extra fee.  

The lure — and expense — of PPV sporting events like world title boxing matches was enough to persuade one in six (17%) to seek them out using illegal streaming sites, while 16% confessed they had used a special device like a modified set-top box or USB stick to access extra pay-TV channels for free. A recent study by Bournemouth University revealed that Brits were the biggest streamers of unauthorised content in Europe, with more than three million using gadgets or online widgets to do so in 2021.   

Of those surveyed, 15% had been threatened with enforcement action by the TV licensing authority, with one in seven (14%) revealing they hadn’t paid for a licence when they needed one.

The same proportion (14%) of Brits said they had downloaded a TV series or show illegally. Here the gap between younger and older generations was the most striking with 27% of those aged 18-24 admitting to flouting the law, three times the proportion of those aged 45-54 (9%).  

Once the most high-profile form of illegal viewing, only 10% of those surveyed said they had pirated a movie

When it came to TV rule-breaking, younger Brits were consistently more likely to take part than older groups, while Londoners led the way regarding account sharing, illegal downloads and the use of devices to get extra content.

Table – TV bad behaviour

Percentage who
have done it
Shared someone else’s streaming service account
Used an illegal online stream to watch a sporting event
Used a device to illegally gain access to extra paid-for TV channels
Been threatened with enforcement by the TV Licensing authority
Not paid for a TV licence fee (when you needed one)
Downloaded a TV series or show illegally
Pirated a movie
N/A — none of the above

Source: WatchTVAbroad.com

Says Jeff Richey, TV analyst at WatchTVAbroad.com:

 “Whether it’s a streaming misdemeanour or a refusal to pay the licence fee, when it comes to TV rule breaking it seems most British viewers are in a rogues’ gallery.

“The young are the biggest offenders, with the huge growth of options to view content online meaning that these digital natives have quickly adapted not only their viewing but their bad behaviour too.  

“As rival services like Netflix and Disney Plus fight tooth and nail in the battle for streaming subscribers, they also clearly have a job on their hands to clamp down on the account sharing that takes a big bite out of their bottom line.

“Despite the verdict of the Intellectual Property Office, many people clearly see pooling their passwords with family members as par for the course rather than a criminal offence.”

Chris Price
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