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Piracy in Spain falls thanks to boom in streaming platforms

According to a new survey from the Culture Ministry, 52% of Spaniards have a subscription to an online service, which in turn has led to a drop in the number of illegal downloads

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The rise of digital streaming platforms has coincided with a drop in illegal downloads.

The more legal services that stream online cultural content (such as music, series and films, television and books), the less piracy there is. That’s one of the main findings from a macro-survey carried out by Spain’s Culture Ministry into Spanish cultural preferences. According to the results of the Survey of Cultural Habits and Practices 2018-2019, 52% of those surveyed have a subscription to a streaming platform (this was the first time the question was asked in the survey’s more than two-decade-long history), while the percentage of people using free downloads has dropped dramatically – from 18.3% in 2015 to 5.1% for music downloads and from 16.1% to 3.7% for video content, in the same time period.

We must not let our guard down

Caretaker Culture Minister José Guirao

The drop in piracy could be even greater. According to experts at the ministry, the vast majority of free downloads from the 2015 survey (18.3% and 16.1% as previously stated) were likely to be illegal, as there were very few legal streaming services available at that time, but now only half of them are illegal. In other words, the percentage of pirated music and videos has fallen to 2.8% and 2%, respectively.

But caretaker Culture Minister José Guirao says the rise of streaming services is not the only factor behind the fall in piracy. During the presentation of the macro-survey on September 30, Guiro attributed the decline to greater social awareness and tougher action from authorities and the justice system against those responsible for illegal content. But while the survey figures are promising, Guirao warned: “We must not let our guard down.”

More reading, less television

The survey into Spanish cultural habits, which is carried out every four years, interviewed 16,000 people over the age of 15 between June 2018 and March 2019. The results show that Spain’s cultural habits remain mostly stable – Spaniards are enjoying the same cultural activities but how they are being consumed has changed, mostly due to the internet. But there has been a general rise in cultural consumption with respect to the 2011 survey: 85.8% of Spaniards listen to music (up three percentage points), 65.8% read books (up nearly seven percentage points) and 57.8% go to the cinema (up 8.7 percentage points. It should be noted, however, that Spain was in the middle of the economic crisis in 2011).

There is one notable exception: television. The percentage of Spaniards watching television has fallen from 98% in the 2002-2003 period, to 94.9% in the 2014-2015 period, and is now at 90%. The number of people watching television via the internet, however, continues to increase: four years ago the figure was 8.9% and now it is 13.5%.

Indeed, three-quarters of the population (75.1%) have used the internet for entertainment purposes in the last month. This figure does not just refer to the 52% of Spaniards with a subscription to a streaming platform, but also to the 8.3% of those surveyed who visit virtual museums, the 9.9% who access libraries and the 5.3% who buy books online.

Since the 2015 survey, there has also been an increase in the number of Spaniards visiting monuments and archaeological sites (50.8%, up from 42.8%), museums, exhibitions and art galleries (46.7%, up 7.3 percentage points), attending contemporary music concerts (30.1%, up 5.6 percentage points) and classical music concerts (34.2% up from 29.2%), going to see theater (24.5%, up 1.3 percentage points), dance (8%, up one percentage point) and opera (3.3%, up six percentage points). The percentage of Spaniards going to see zarzuela (a Spanish operetta) and the circus continues to fall, dropping to 1.5% and 7.3%, respectively.

Other findings

While an increasing number of Spaniards are using digital formats to read books (from 6.5% in 2011 to 17.7% in 2015 and to the current 20.2%), the majority – 61.9% – prefer physical books. Reading is also an area where the gender gap is most evident – the annual rate of female readers is 69.4% compared to 62% for male readers.

The survey also highlighted the age gap – younger Spaniards enjoy almost all cultural activities at a higher rate than their elders, something that is likely to do with the fact that they have more leisure time, and fewer work and family responsibilities. It may also be related to another of the survey’s unsurprising findings: the higher the level of education, the greater the cultural consumption.

The results also show that there is a connection between different cultural activities. In other words, Spaniards who go to museums often are more likely to go to the cinema and concerts. Spaniards are also more likely to enjoy cultural activities if they were exposed to them as a child. For example, while 59.5% of the general population has read a book for entertainment in the last year, that figure rises to 85.6% for those who regularly read for leisure as children.

US piracy watchlist

Piracy was so commonplace in Spain around a decade ago, that in 2008 the United States actually placed the country on its “Special 301 Report,” a watch list of countries who failed to protect the copyright of its intellectual property. The US government had spent the previous three years harshly criticizing Madrid’s passivity over the issue, but in the wake of improvements the country was removed from the watch list in 2012.

Nearly 70% read the general news

The media sector is very much aware of how new technologies are changing consumer habits. According to the Survey of cultural habits and practices 2018-2019, 76.9% of Spaniards usually read the media and periodicals at least once a month, down 3.2 percentage points from four years ago and 4.5 percentage points from the 2006-2007 period. Of this figure, 42.9% use the internet, while 52.4% prefer newspapers.

With respect to general news, 44.4% of Spaniards read it daily, 65.8% read it at least once a week or on weekends, and 69.7% read it at least once a month, according to the study.

English version by Alicia Kember

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