A quarter of Malaysian consumers (25%) are using modified TV set-top boxes to watch pirated content, research by the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) has found.

Not only is use of the set-top boxes – known as illicit streaming devices (ISDs) – rampant, half of those buying them said they were purchased through one of Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce stores; and 37% said they had bought their ISD through a social media platform.

And as consumers access pirated content, they are also ending subscriptions to legitimate channels, the survey, commissioned by AVIA’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), found.

Of the 33% of consumers who told researchers they bought an ISD specifically for free streaming, 60% said they cancelled some or all subscriptions to legal pay TV channels. And 35% said they had cancelled their subscriptions to a Malaysian-based online video service as a consequence of having an ISD. International subscription services, including pan-Asia online ones, were also hit, with 19% of Malaysians with ISDs ending subscriptions.

This behaviour was especially pronounced among younger consumers: of those with ISDs in the 18 to 24 age group, 66% said they’d dropped paid-for services.

“The illicit streaming device (ISD) ecosystem is impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content,” said Louis Boswell CEO of AVIA.

“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”.

The problem is hardly confined to Malaysia, however. As The Asia Video Industry Report 2019 highlights, “Asia Pacific has some of the most egregious consumers of pirated content in the world, with Singapore ranking ninth in the world for the most number of visits to piracy sites per capita.”

Research, it said, had uncovered the shocking extent of the problem in the region. In Hong Kong, nearly one in four (24%) consumers use ISDs, and 10% of these people have already cancelled subscriptions to legal services. In the Philippines, 28% of consumers admit to using ISDs with 13% of them saying they have cancelled subscriptions.

And in Taiwan, one in three consumers (34%) use ISDs with 16% of these having cancelled legal services. Meanwhile in Thailand, 45% say they use ISDs, and 21% say they have ended subscriptions to legal services.

“The appetite for free or cheap subscription pirated content blinkers users from the very real risks of malware infection," CAP’s general manager Neil Gane told Marketing Interactive.

Remote access trojans, which allow a hacker to activate and record from the device’s webcam were a danger, he warned.

Sourced from AVIA, Marketing Interactive; additional content by WARC staff