Top Pirate Sites Earn $111 Million of Ad Revenue Every Year, Says Report

By Tom Pritchard on at

It's no secret that copyright holders have tried to tackle piracy sites and services by going after their revenue stream. After all the majority of them aren't doing it out of the goodness of their own hearts, they'll at least want to break even. For the biggest sites that might not even be an issue, because a new report claims they earn $111 million in ad revenue every year.

The report comes from the Trustworthy Accountability Group, an organisation that coordinates anti-piracy programmes for the advertising industry. Titled “Measuring Digital Advertising Revenue to Infringing Sites”, the report shows the impact of the organisation's efforts on preventing pirate sites from collecting revenue from adverts.

While $111 million is a lot, that money is spread over 672 of the top pirate sites. If it's split equally (which it likely isn't) it means that each site would get a share of $165,178.57, which a much less offensive figure. How much is actual profit isn't clear, and would naturally depend on each site's individual upkeep costs.

According to TAG 83 per cent of the revenue came from non-premium advertisers, though it point out that if the advertising industry hadn't taken such an aggressive stance against piracy those earning could have almost doubled. It's estimated that the extra income would be $102-$177 million, depending on the split of premium and non-premium advertising utilised. That's a pretty significant reduction, even if it is totalled over several hundred sites.

Though it's worth mentioning that this is a hypothetical scenario, and in all likelihood the sites' income would be nowhere near the upper limits since that would rely on them having close to 100 per cent premium advertising. As TorrentFreak points out, there's little evidence that TAG's work is responsible for those sites losing this hypothetical cash. As the site points out, most pirate sites had been banned from premium-tier advertising before TAG even joined the fray.

TorrentFreak also points out that TAG seems to be overestimating how much money each non-premium ad generates. TAG claims every 1,000 views will earn $2.50, while a copyright industry study backed by the Digital Citizens Alliance estimates the number to be closer to $0.30. The DCA also estimates this is how much pirate sites can get from premium ads, because they're generally served with 'leftover inventory' - ie the stuff that isn't worth all that much. TAG's estimate for these is $5 per 1,000 views.

TAG's work has probably made a difference, but probably not as much as the recent study claims. So take all this with a healthy dose of scepticism. [TorrentFreak]

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