The Nigerian film industry, known as Nollywood, is grappling with an increase in internet piracy cases as streaming booms.
“Blood Sisters”, produced by Mo Abudu, premiered in May 2022 to rave reviews from moviegoers, has since ranked number 9 on Netflix globally and has attracted approximately 11.0 million viewing hours.
However, the movie, which is supposed to be exclusive to Netflix, was uploaded to NetNaija, a free streaming platform notorious for movie piracy. It is not just Blood Sisters which is now streaming for free on NetNaija, almost all Nigerian movies including “King of Boys: Return of the King” released on Netflix have been uploaded on the piracy platform.
“Blood Sisters”, “King of Boys: Return of the King” and many other Nollywood productions are also downloaded from 02Tvseries. As of May 15, the platform had 51,533 views for “Blood Sisters.”
BusinessDay’s visit to NetNaija also shows that “Blood Sisters” is one of the trending Nollywood movies and has the most comments on the platform. Other streaming platforms where Nigerians upload new movies include Moviesjoy.to, Fzmovies, Tfpdl and Topnow.se. YouTube is also home to many pirated movies, but “Blood Sisters” and other Nollywood titles have yet to find their way onto the Google-owned platform.
“Filmmakers don’t make enough money here. So seeing them losing money to hacking is painful. My fight isn’t with people who can’t afford Netflix subscriptions. But to those who make money from piracy,” said Dika Ofoma, communications manager at TNC Africa, a film and television production company.
Ofoma sees NetNaija as a hacking platform that illegally delivers people’s hard work to their audience and makes money from it.
“It’s criminal,” he said.
According to data from GIPC and NERA Economic Consulting, the global movie industry’s lost revenue due to digital piracy is between $40 billion and $97.1 billion per year.
Online piracy is thriving due to huge demand. Besides customers trying to avoid paying monthly subscriptions on platforms like Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, others say platforms like NetNaija are needed to bridge the gap between those who can afford internet data and those who can’t afford it. Almost all the piracy platforms allow users to download the movies and watch them offline, while Netflix allows subscribers to download but they cannot watch outside the app.
NetNaija told BusinessDay on Sunday that its mission is to provide information and entertainment to its users. However, he would not comment on allegations that he pirated other people’s work or how he made money, given that he offers his services for free.
It is estimated that pirated video material gets more than 230 billion views per year. More than 80% of global online piracy can be attributed to illegal streaming services.
Experts predict that the global online TV and movie industry will continue to lose revenue in the future. According to online piracy statistics, the film and television industry will lose $51.6 billion from online piracy by 2022.
The streaming service industry has transformed the film industry in Nigeria and around the world. Streaming has not only allowed people to watch their favorite movies and TV shows, but it has also increased the income of practitioners in the industry.
Also Read: Nigerians Spent N2.3 Billion Naira on Action Movies in 2021
Streaming has become so popular that many streaming services now have their own studios where they can produce their content. A Business Insider article reports that in 2019, Netflix alone released 371 movies and TV shows. In 2021, Netflix was again in the lead with 39% of original content released from their studio, with HBO Max just behind them at 37%.
While Africa is home to over a billion people, a report claims it has less than 5 million subscription video-on-demand users. Millennials are also more likely to find hacking normal.
Ofoma says that to curb piracy, it might be best to consider going through theaters when it comes to distribution for movies.
“If cinemas are people’s (first) locations and tickets are affordable, I think that will discourage illegal downloads,” he said.
He acknowledges, however, that the rising level of poverty is making things more complicated as there are more poor people who cannot afford movie tickets or the cost of subscribing to SVODs like Netflix. The monthly subscription for Netflix ranges from N1,200 for mobile only, N2,900 for basic to N4,400 for premium subscribers. The HBO Max subscription costs N5,900 and the average movie ticket costs N1,500.
“But I believe that if movies are accessible and affordable to them, piracy sites would become less of an option for them. And that will help curb the activities of piracy sites,” he said.