Thursday, May 08, 2008

Millions turn to net for pirate TV (Right or Wrong?)

I've been waiting for an article like this to surface. I'll quote the article first, and respond below.


"By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News

If you are a fan of TV drama Lost but are not able to watch it on US TV, it is not hard to find episodes on the Internet. Popular shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives and 24 are increasingly easy to find for free on peer-to-peer networks, often within minutes of airing in the US. And many people outside the US are simply not prepared to wait until they come to their own small screens. "Most episodes come online about half an hour after it first airs in the US," says Dr David Price, head of piracy intelligence at web monitoring firm Envisional. "Someone with a fast connection in the UK can watch it before it airs on the west coast of the US."

It is now as easy to download a TV show through a web site as it is to set your VCR.

The pirating of popular TV shows is a growing problem for the TV industry as viewers increasingly demand their own viewing timetables. An on-demand culture plus the growing speed and uptake of broadband are making TV the most pirated asset on the Internet, Dr Price says. He estimates that must-see shows like Lost are getting over a million illegal downloads per episode - up from around 150,000 a few years ago. "It is now as easy to download a TV show through a web site as it is to set your VCR," Dr Price says. "These days, missing a TV shows presents little problem to anyone with even a basic knowledge of the Internet. "Two clicks and your favorite program is downloading, and with the advent of RSS technology, downloads can even be automated. "In effect, the Internet is now a global video recorder."

Pirate Bay, a popular Bittorrent tracker web site, has tens of thousands of people exchanging files, typically movies and TV programs, at any one time. At the time of writing, the latest episode of CSI New York has more than 1,000 people exchanging the program from just one source and less than 24 hours after broadcast in the US. And content downloaded from the net is usually ad-free - another reason for viewers to turn to the black market and for TV executives to get worried. A 45-minute program is typically around 350Mb in size and can take anything from two to six hours to download, depending on its popularity.


Once downloaded, programs can be converted to DVD format and burnt onto a disc or converted for viewing on a PlayStation Portable, iPod video or another portable device with video playback, even mobile phones.

According to net analysts CacheLogic, up to 70% of Internet traffic comes from peer-to-peer networks. The vast majority of this is video content, both movies and TV. Peer-to-peer distribution system Bittorrent is responsible for around a third of this traffic, it estimates. And it is estimated that the UK accounts for between 10-25% of all TV piracy, largely because most sought-after pirated content is US shows that have a natural audience in the UK.

One of the biggest problems in combating TV piracy is persuading people they are doing anything wrong. "There has to be an education campaign," says Eddy Leviten, spokesman for the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact). "We have to make people aware that it is illegal. It is infringing copyright. This is intellectual property that somebody somewhere has to pay for." TV companies are increasingly making shows legally available online, with ABC selling episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives via Apple's iTunes. In the UK, Sky is also determined to capture the zeitgeist and make more programs available legitimately. "The evidence shows that there is a clear appetite for people to enjoy TV shows in a more flexible way and, as an industry, we need to give customers that flexibility," says Sky spokesman Robert Fraser. "Bittorrent is responding to the demand of consumers and the industry has the ability to respond too," he added. Sky has just started showing the third series of Lost, with episodes available for download shortly after their TV broadcast. Dr Price says legitimate download services will help - but there must a bigger change in the TV industry. The waiting time for US shows will eventually disappear, he believes. "The headline shows such as Lost and 24 will start airing in the UK at the same time as in the US," he predicts."

Story from BBC NEWS:


My thoughts

I've known this topic would make its way to mainstream media sometime very soon and I wanted to fire my two cents into the mix when it did. Let me state something clearly first. I do not support the use of Bittorrent for downloading illegal music, programs, or other general stuff I can't think of at the moment... its early and I'm only on my first cup of coffee.


However, I consider TV shows to be something totally different. This is a medium which I DO pay for. I have been known to download a show from time to time on bittorrent to catch up on something I missed on my DVR or to catch up on an old season that's not available on DVD or Internet yet, and why not? Am I paying for this media? YES! In fact, when I think about it, I'm probably paying too much! I pay Suddenlink cable 45.00 per month for my basic cable television. I pay them another 29.00 per month for digital television service. Then I pay them ANOTHER 9.00 per month for the privilege to record that same TV show on my DVR. Additionally, I pay 21.95 per month to Blockbuster Entertainment for the privilege to rent ANY movie anytime and to have them for as long as I want them. (And finally, I also pay them another $30.00 per month for high-speed Internet if I DO have to download something from the Internet) So... they're getting their money's worth.


You know who I don't want to pay? I don't want to pay Campbell's soup, Tampax, Cialis, Viagra, car dealerships, mobile phone carriers, and any of the other variety of overly-loud commercials that interrupt what I'm paying over a hundred dollars a month to watch. Here's something that really annoys me. When I record a movie on any modern VCR, I can utilize a feature called commercial skip that recognizes the difference in the feed and stops recording during the commercials. That VCR costs me about $40 bucks. My Scientific Atlanta DVR that I can't even afford to purchase (which is why I lease it) costs WAY more than that and they have a contract with cable companies that won't allow them to skip commercials at all. That's bunk! Back to the point though.


Any of you watch House, Heroes, or Bones? Bones came back on this year and I missed the first episode because it aired in a different time slot. My DVR missed it because it aired at a different time, however the next episode was back in its original slot? Why in the world would I be penalized for going online to bittorrent and downloading that episode of  Bones? Don't give me the piracy speech. I support that speech ALL the time in the proper context, but this is NOT the proper context for that argument. I already HAVE paid to see it, and anything else I want to see... I just missed it.  As soon as I saw it was on and I'd missed it, I went online and downloaded the entire episode in Full Screen HD video format in less than 30 minutes. Forty-three minutes later I was caught up and ready to watch it on TV again the next week.


Jericho: This show was completely canceled and went off the air! I rented Season 1 and loved it! Season two was unavailable for me to get... period. The show was canceled by CBS and they were in no rush to make Season Two on DVD. I can't get it at Blockbuster, can't rent it online from CBS, so what alternative is there? Am I supposed to wait two years for the series to make it to DVD? No... bittorrent had the entire episode list for season two downloaded between the time I went to bed and the time I got up.


As much as I hate to say it, the television industry (and I do NOT mean the Movie industry) is going to have to wake up and realize its consumers have the power to control its market completely. My girlfriend went online to watch Prison Break on the web site. I have over five thousand dollars worth of high-tech digital video electronics and she had to sit at her computer chair and curse because it's available only in a 3 inch by 4 inch streaming video format from the web site and that glitched and froze so bad that it made her not want to finish it. I have the show on DVR. I also have the show on DVD from blockbuster. I'm paying twice for the priveledge to watch this episode. Why in the world would I feel like I was breaking any law to go on Bittorrent and download the entire episode in HD quality, dolby digital sound, and then be able to watch it full screen on my 22 inch widescreen, rather than hearing the tinny quality tiny sized video from the web site?


If television companies want to gain control over their consumer base, here's a real easy solution that takes into account the need for trend-tracking which so predominates the industry. I know they want to know what I'm watching and they can't do that on Bittorrent. They can't possible gauge their commercial revenue response if I download the episode from another source, such as Bittorrent.


My television industry solution to Bittorrent:

  • Suddenlink Cable/Time Warner, whomever.. assigns me a customer code when I purchase cable.... wait.. they already do that.
  • I login to the web site and choose from all the TV shows I can watch from the current season, or maybe even last season.
  • I pick the one I want to watch and DOWNLOAD it. (not stream it)
  • When I'm done, I delete it and go back go googling recipes for blueberry casserole....
  • Track which customers download which shows... just like you do on cable television.
  • Insert commercials. I'm going to fast forward through them anyway just like I do on regular TV, but at least you're trying.
  • Charge $5.00 per month for non-subsribers (UK, for example) to access the content.


  • I (insert cable company name here) won't make any money that way.
    Solution: Sure... display ads for matching television memorabilia, fan sites, or whatever on the pages associated with each show. (Bit torrent does.. and it works for them)
  • I (insert cable company name here) don't want to pay for all that bandwidth for downloads from our site.
    Solution: Waaa.. shut your mouth you whining sniveling baby. Right now the consumers are EATING your market alive. We already pay you for that same bandwidth remember? You'll only be redirecting it to your own ad-sponsored pages, rather than on PTB's ads (or whomever people currently use for torrent.. I'm not that into the market, so I don't know.)

Quite frankly, if even 1/10th of the TV downloaders were offered this option I think (IMHO) that bt would see a huge drop in the tv show market. We, the consumer are happy downloading FULL SCREEN digital entertainment for our PC, Ipod, Zune, or whatever. You are making ad-revenue and selling related merchandise. Hell, it would open up a new channel market for your advertisers to hit customers for.


Think about it.



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. You're a sneaky little one aren't ya space ghost? Thanks for the head's up. As you can see from the main post, I eventually won! It took three days but I won.


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