Content Wants to Be Pirated

Behind the Numbers: Contents Want to Be PiratedThe 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, 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, 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."

4 comments about "Content Wants to Be Pirated ".
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  1. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, August 28, 2009 at 11:01 a.m.

    Perhaps people also desire access on their schedule, outside the scope of their Tivo.

  2. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, August 28, 2009 at 1:22 p.m.

    Man, this is one breathless, hysterical and - I would suggest - utterly misguided view on how the "TV" content providers should plan on monetizing their product.

    First step I would suggest is to REALLY take a look at how the music industry has reacted to this - and largely continues to respond.

    And then do the exact opposite.

    Second step - read Chris Anderson's smart new book called "Free".

    Then get out there and start being smart & opportunistic about planning and monetizing the future of your franchises through digital channels.

  3. Pierre Col from Kizz TV, August 29, 2009 at 4:18 a.m.

    I totally agree with the opinion expressed in this paper.

    The solution to allow video content and films to be legally pirated still exists :

    But movie industry right holders are difficult to convince...

  4. Allen Maccannell from SenderOK, August 31, 2009 at 6:53 a.m.

    They should teach the following Case Study in MBA Programs:

    The movie Valkyrie premiered last Christmas Day in New York. The topic was of primary interest to Germans however. A German premiere was scheduled for a month later.

    Ask MBA students what's wrong with that marketing picture.

    Now look what happened: the German people are probably more careful of not pirating things than even Americans are, but in the month between the US opening and the German opening, there was huge pirating of the English version coming out of Germany.

    They couldn't wait. The topic was too important to them.

    I think the solution for the industry is to release content online for about $5-7 per viewing in all languages within 2 weeks of a premiere. Do not produce a film about another country without premiering it in that country at the same time as in the US.

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