Net­works de­clare war on pi­rates

Net­works are get­ting wise to il­le­gal down­load­ing of shows, writes Ge­off Shearer

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

FANS of He­roes have be­come the vil­lains on the widen­ing and stormy seas of TV piracy on the in­ter­net. The cult sci-fi se­ries heads the list of the top 10 il­le­gally down­loaded TV shows for last year, fol­lowed by Lost.

The global is­sue of piracy has placed Aus­tralian net­works on a war foot­ing.

The fast-tracking of shows from their coun­try of ori­gin, catch-up pro­gram­ming and mak­ing episodes avail­able for down­load post­broad­cast are strate­gies net­works here are us­ing to dis­suade fans from pi­rat­ing episodes via file-shar­ing meth­ods such as BitTor­rent.

But de­spite sim­i­lar moves by US net­works, Tor­ren­tFreak.com re­ports a mile­stone was reached last year when the down­load fig­ures for two shows in the top 10 — He­roes and Dex­ter — ex­ceeded their ac­tual av­er­age view­er­ship on US TV.

He­roes was down­loaded about 6.58 mil­lion times last year, whereas the show had an es­ti­mated US au­di­ence of only 5.9 mil­lion.

‘‘The rise of unau­tho­rised down­load­ing of TV shows is a sig­nal that cus­tomers want some­thing that is not avail­able through other chan­nels,’’ Tor­ren­tFreak re­ports.

‘‘Avail­abil­ity seems to be the key rea­son peo­ple turn to BitTor­rent — and this is also re­flected in the fact that most down­loads are to coun­tries where the show has yet to air on TV.’’

Chan­nel 7, which shows He­roes in Aus­tralia, has been proac­tive against piracy.

Seven’s di­rec­tor of pro­gram­ming and pro­duc­tion, Tim Worner, says the net­work’s shows are now ‘‘more avail­able than they have ever been’’.

‘‘View­ers are get­ting to know that if they miss the show on Seven, it’s go­ing to be on Ya­hoo!7 for the next seven days,’’ he says.

‘‘In some cases we won’t leave shows sit­ting on the shelf for any length of time. We’ll fast-track them to air within 24 hours of their first tele­cast in the US.

‘‘We work so closely with the stu­dios on this is­sue that the mak­ers of Flash For­ward, ABC Stu­dios, which has the most pro­gres­sive thinkers in this area, al­lowed us to tele­cast an episode of Flash For­ward be­fore it had been broad­cast in the States.’’

A Nine Net­work spokes­woman agreed that fast turn-around times were ef­fec­tive.

‘‘Cer­tain pro­grams, par­tic­u­larly those with ‘cult’ fol­low­ings, are more likely to be down­loaded, so where pos­si­ble their air dates have pri­or­ity,’’ she says.

Net­work Ten says air dates mat­ter.

‘‘Ten’s youth­ful au­di­ence is a highly savvy one, and they have a strong level of en­gage­ment with their favourite shows,’’ Ten’s head of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Jean­nette McLough­lin, says.

‘‘This means they in­creas­ingly look for im­me­di­acy and con­ve­nience — and we are in a great po­si­tion to de­liver on both counts.

‘‘Our es­tab­lished ar­range­ments with our US stu­dio part­ners mean we of­ten broad­cast key shows ‘day and date’ with the US.

‘‘We also have a sig­nif­i­cant of­fer­ing in catch-up TV, with the rights to stream more than 40 pro­grams on­line.’’

Some an­a­lysts fear that net­works pro­vid­ing on­line down­loads will even­tu­ally kill the ad­ver­tis­ing-sup­ported busi­ness model of tra­di­tional free-to-air broad­cast­ing.

A UK me­dia re­search com­pany, how­ever, re­leased a re­port last month that damp­ened such spec­u­la­tion.

The En­ders Anal­y­sis re­port fore­cast the share of video on de­mand would grow to only five to 10 per cent of all view­ing by 2020.

Yes­ter­day’s He­roes:

Fans turn to piracy when net­works are too slow to screen cult shows such as He­roes.

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