According to a new study by creative agency Anatomy Media, two-thirds of young millennials use an ad blocker. Moreover, 69 percent of these stream pirate videos. So, do Millennial streaming habits threaten legitimate video entertainment companies?
Anatomy Media’s survey – which studied 2,500 Americans aged 18-24 – found that two-thirds use an ad blocker and that 69 percent use some form of video piracy on a regular basis. Such high figures in both areas suggest that the two behaviours could be reinforcing. Of course, if one visits more sites that have intrusive or malicious ads (such as piracy websites), then having a good ad blocker will be beneficial. So, at least hypothetically, this adds up.
However, ad blockers do not discriminate. This means that legitimate entertainment services that rely on ad revenue are potentially missing out on millions, even if those responsible are not primarily using ad blockers to block their ads.
So what can companies do? Well, the first course of action is an ad blocking wall. By preventing all users with an ad blocker enabled accessing content, ad blocking walls prevent users dodging ads. Sites including Channel 4, Forbes, and TechCrunch have all adopted this solution in some form. But many more companies have not.
Speaking to The Wrap, Anatomy Media’s co-founder and CEO Gabriella Mirabelli said: “Think about the Olympics on NBC. We kept testing to see if they had an ad blocking wall, and, nope. You could watch all their stuff and never see an ad. That’s where two-thirds of their missing Millennials went.”
And it’s not just NBC. After conducting tests on major broadcasters’ streaming sites, Anatomy Media found that Fox and ABC both allow users to watch videos with an ad blocker enabled. Indeed, only CBS asked users to turn their ad blockers off before allowing them to view content.
By failing to make use of existing technologies, those companies which allow users utilising an ad blocker to access their content indirectly endorse the digital piracy and ad dodging culture. Today, many young people don’t even realise that ad blocking and digital piracy (especially related to streaming) is wrong, let alone illegal – with just 18 percent of them believing streaming a video without paying for it is improper.
Unless users understand the problems that ad blocking and digital piracy create, there is really a very little impetus for them to change their habits. This means that companies have two duties. Firstly, they need to enable ad blocking walls so that their content is protected. Secondly, they need to educate their audiences about the harms of ad blocking and piracy, as well as show that ads need not be intrusive and unengaging. This means showing viewers ads that are relevant, varied, and interesting.
Adhering to the first of these duties really shouldn’t be that hard – and it’s a wonder that so many companies have yet to do so. The second, however, is a little trickier and may require companies to be more discerning when choosing which ads to display, as well as who sees them. But whilst this may be difficult, the alternative – to continue to lose millions in ad revenue, to damage their standing amongst advertisers, and allow often illegal third-parties to benefit from pirated content – is much, much worse.