Michael Smith to speak on Converting Pirates without Cannibalizing Purchasers: The Impact of Digital Distribution on Physical Sales and Internet Piracy


Converting Pirates without Cannibalizing Purchasers: The Impact of Digital Distribution on Physical Sales and Internet Piracy

Michael Smith

Heinz Career Development Associate Professor of Information Systems and Marketing
Heinz College’s School of Information Systems and Management, Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University

December 4, 2009

Alter Hall 405, 1000am – 1130am

Abstract

The availability of digital distribution channels for media content has raised several important questions for marketers, notably whether the use of digital distribution channels will significantly cannibalize physical sales and whether legitimate digital distribution channels will be able to dissuade consumers from using (illegitimate) digital piracy channels. We address these two questions using the removal of NBC content from Apple’s iTunes store in December 2007, and its restoration in September 2008, as natural shocks to the supply of legitimate digital content, and analyzing its impact on demand through BitTorrent piracy channels and the Amazon.com DVD store.

We address these questions using two large datasets from Mininova and Amazon.com documenting levels of piracy and DVD sales for both NBC and other major networks’ content around these events. We analyze this data in a difference-in-difference model and find that NBC’s decision to remove its content from iTunes in December 2007 is causally associated with an 11.2% increase in the demand for pirated content. This is roughly equivalent to an increase of 49,000 downloads a day for NBC’s content and is approximately twice as large as the total legal purchases on iTunes for the same content in the period preceding the removal. We also find evidence of a smaller, and statistically insignificant, decrease in piracy for the same content when it was restored to the iTunes store in September 2008. Finally, we see no change in demand for NBC’s DVD content at Amazon.com associated with NBC’s closing or reopening of their digital distribution channel on iTunes.

For a copy of the full paper, click here.