The TV and film industries face an epic battle
Television executives, welcome to the rathole otherwise known as the fight against piracy. Now it's your turn to fight an uphill battle, one that the music industry has waged for more than a decade to the tune of shrinking profits and smaller sales.
Today the TV
business faces the same predicament: rampant thievery of TV shows on the Web with little hope
for change. Sure, the TV industry saw a ray of hope when the people behind file-sharing site Pirate Bay were convicted of copyright violation in April and ordered to pay $3.6 million in damages to companies including Warner Bros., Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Sony BMG and EMI.
But piracy shows no signs of abating. Piracy of TV shows is growing faster on the Web than illegal sharing of movies and music is, says Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne, a media measurement firm that tracks piracy. With more than 14 billion videos viewed online each month and countless more illegally shared through file-sharing sites, there are now more than 60 million Internet users worldwide actively engaged in piracy, Garland adds.
hile the Motion Picture Association of America and tv studios applauded the Pirate Bay ruling, Garland points out that the music industry was similarly jubilant when Napster was shut down nearly a decade ago, but that did not stem the flow of pirated music. "Everyone always gets excited, and six months later we are back where we started and the problem will have grown," he says.
The effect of piracy has already been felt and impacts the bottom line of advertising dollars and DVD sales for the TV business. For instance, Carnegie Mellon published a research report that said NBC's decision to leave iTunes two years ago (now nbc is back) led to an 11.5 percent increase in piracy of nbc's content when compared to that of ABC, CBS and Fox's content at the same time.
"On a unit basis, this increase was more than twice as large as the daily sales NBC received through iTunes before removal. Moreover, we see no increase in DVD sales for NBC's television box sets after removal," the university found.
According to news site torrentfreak.com, the most pirated TV shows for the first week in May were Lost, Heroes, Prison Break and 24, with Lost being downloaded illegally 1.7 million times that week. That number also translates into lost physical sales of DVD, lost digital sales on iTunes and lost ad dollars from what could have been legal online and TV-set viewing.
But there's a ray of hope in the piracy statistics. More than 90 percent of the people who download TV shows are located outside the United States, where it may take up to a year before new episodes will actually air on TV, says the editor-in-chief of torrentfreak.com, who goes by the name of Ernesto Van Der Sar.
The number of downloads from BitTorrent and other file-sharing networks continues to increase. In the United States, there was a decline after the launch of Hulu," he says. "The rise of unauthorized downloading of TV shows is a signal that customers want something that is not available through other channels. It's more about availability than the fact that it's free, and should be viewed as an opportunity, not a threat. The more restrictions there are, the more piracy there is. It's as simple as that."