Hollywood has made a valiant effort, with mixed success, to cut down on DVD piracy in China. But can it stop illegal online streaming that starts in China and spreads around the world?
That's the question raised by MegaVideo. As AllThingsD has observed, the Chinese site has rapidly risen to take the no. 10 spot on Comscore's list of video websites in the U.S., with nearly 7 million users and over 100 million streams in January. Why? Piracy, of course.
MegaVideo is full of pirated TV shows. You can't find them directly from the home page. But do a google search for any popular show and megavideo and you'll find it either hosted on megavideo.com, or embedded on another page. Here's one I got for "battlestar megavideo." Here's one for "dexter megavideo." Even movies. Here's "pirates caribbean megavideo." You get the picture.
As AllThingsD's Peter Kafka noted, the Chinese government's history of cracking down on pirate websites is pretty sketchy. Even if MegaVideo does get shut down, it's hard to imagine a similar site won't pop up soon.
The saving grace for Hollywood is that, as with many piracy sites, MegaVideo isn't too user friendly. It's full of buttons and pop-ups meant to entice users to click on ads and download what's probably malware (I didn't want to find out).
But the rapid growth of MegaVideo — and it's amazing average 6 hours per month per user — indicate plenty of people are willing to put up with it. That means Hollywood is going to have to continue to improve Hulu and other sites to make them better alternatives. And Jeff Bewkes will have to think very carefully about his plan to force people to be cable/satellite subscribers in order to access television shows online.