One in four Malaysian consumers use illicit streaming devices

A quarter of Malaysian consumers (25%) use a TV box which can be used to stream pirated television and video content. Also known as illicit streaming devices (ISDs), the TV boxes offer consumers access to a plethora of pirated TV channels and video-on-demand content.

Such ISDs often come pre-loaded with pirated applications which are either free or charge low subscription fees, which then provide "plug-and-play" access to pirated content. According to a survey commissioned by the Asia Video Industry Association's (AVIA) Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) and conducted by YouGov, half of the Malaysian consumers who own an ISD claimed to have purchased it from one of the largest Southeast Asia-based eCommerce stores. Also, close to 37% of ISD owners say they acquired their devices via one of the world's most popular social media platforms.

Meanwhile, of the 33% of consumers who purchased an ISD for free streaming, 60% stated that they cancelled all or some of their subscription to legal pay TV services. Specifically, 35% asserted that they cancelled their subscriptions to a Malaysian-based online video service as a direct consequence of owning an ISD. International subscription services, which include pan-Asia online offerings, were also affected, with 19% of Malaysian consumers abandoning subscriptions in favour of ISD purchases.

The survey also found that 35 to 44-year-old consumers are not the only ones cancelling their subscriptions. In fact, consumers aged 18 to 24 also particularly favour free streaming apps, with 66% cancelling legitimate subscription services as a result of owning ISDs, especially local online subscriptions (37%).

Nonetheless, the popularity of ISDs is not unique to Malaysia. Similar YouGov consumer research showed that there are also high levels of ISD usage in Singapore (15%), Hong Kong (20%), the Philippines (28%) and Taiwan (34%).

Louis Boswell, CEO of AVIA, said the ISD ecosystem is impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content. "ISD piracy is also organised crime, pure and simple, with crime syndicates making substantial illicit revenues from the provision of illegally re-transmitted TV channels and the sale of such ISDs," he added.

Meanwhile, GM of AVIA's CAP, Neil Gane, said that cancelling legitimate subscription services and paying less for access to pirated content is "fraught with risks".

"The appetite for free or cheap subscription pirated content blinkers users from the very real risks of malware infection. The type of malware embedded within the piracy ecosystem can include particularly harmful malware such as remote access trojans which allows the hacker to activate and record from the device's webcam without the victim being aware," he said.

(Photo courtesy: 123RF)