I know many people here download the latest TV shows… this is for you info.
Television networks need to buck up their ideas to avoid driving more viewers to pirated copies of popular shows such as Desperate Housewives on the internet, say web researchers.
Research in Britain and Australia uncovered a global explosion in internet piracy of television shows and anecdotal evidence suggests New Zealand is no exception.
Media commentator Russell Brown said the number of people downloading episodes was still small.
"But people are doing it more and more because they don’t want to wait … I’m quite big on going to a shop and paying money but it’s hard to resist the opportunity to see that the day after it screens in the States.
“In the end, this will force a change in the way television is distributed.”
Research by British web monitoring company Envision found pirated versions of popular shows such as 24 and The OC were available on the internet within hours of being aired in the United States.
Pirating of some programmes had increased more than 150 per cent in a year.
A study by Australian Alex Malik found almost one in three online forums about television shows discussed pirating. As well as downloading programmes from overseas, Australians were also uploading local shows, such as Rove Live, for Antipodeans living overseas to see.
A recent example of piracy was the leaking of the first episode of the Dr Who series, which Prime has bought to show here.
Advertising media buyers have also warned networks to find a solution or risk losing advertising dollars.
Mediacom says it is “turning into a global epidemic that threatens to remake the television landscape in New Zealand as elsewhere”.
Advertising revenue faced a further threat in personal digital recorders, due to be introduced by Sky in December.
Local networks do not believe piracy is a significant problem but Prime CEO Chris Taylor forecast the free-to-air television world would be a very different place 10 years from now.
“I don’t think piracy has really affected our industry yet. But I guess it’s coming and there is a problem of how to combat it. Perhaps television networks will have to address things like licensing agreements so they can show them sooner.”
Piracy has led to calls for television networks to follow the lead of the music industry and make episodes available for download from the internet for a fee.
InternetNZ vice-president David Farrar said the success of Apple’s iTunes technology, which is supported by the music recording industry, showed it was not a question of money.
"Software like BitTorrent poses an incredible challenge to television channels. A very smart television channel would give people the choice of buying programmes individually over the internet.
“Several people I know have said they would be happy to pay, say, $5 an episode to download it and watch it. The issue is they just don’t want to have to wait for it to arrive here when they’ve got the internet and can get it almost instantly.”
TVNZ spokeswoman Michele Camilleri said the network tried to screen programmes quickly but was restricted by issues such as licensing periods.
Ten most-pirated TV show downloads worldwide:
- Stargate Atlantis
- The Simpsons
- Stargate SG-1
- The OC
- Desperate Housewives
- Battlestar Galactica