Impatient TV viewers turn to BitTorrent

Impatient TV viewers turn to BitTorrent

Summary: Some Australians are turning to peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks for new episodes of their favourite American television shows.According to an independent study conducted by Alex Malik, a former general counsel for the Australian Recording Industry Association, the popularity of one P2P application -- BitTorrent -- in Australia is driven in part by local television networks which "have adopted a strategy of being slow to air current episodes of popular TV shows".

TOPICS: Legal, Hardware, Piracy
Some Australians are turning to peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks for new episodes of their favourite American television shows.

According to an independent study conducted by Alex Malik, a former general counsel for the Australian Recording Industry Association, the popularity of one P2P application -- BitTorrent -- in Australia is driven in part by local television networks which "have adopted a strategy of being slow to air current episodes of popular TV shows".

Malik believes that by delaying the broadcast of these programmes, Australian TV programmers have increased the domestic demand for the shows. "As a result, impatient viewers have increasingly turned to BitTorrent to download their favourite shows," he said.

Malik told ZDNet Australia  that online forums dedicated to discussions about popular TV shows revealed that one in three of the conversations touches on where and how to pirate TV programmes on the Web. He said although it was hard to quantify the number of people illegally downloading shows through BitTorrent, there was a "substantial" number of people doing it.

"It's difficult to put a number on it because not a lot of people talk about [online pirating] especially since it's illegal. It's similar to illegal music file sharing ... not a lot of people admit to it but there is a substantial amount happening," he said.

Malik's research showed that Australians have to wait an average of eight months to see first-run episodes of popular programmes from overseas. For instance, it takes an average of four months to watch the latest episodes of top-rated shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives, currently being aired in Channel Seven.

Malik said local networks also delayed the telecast of top programmes during summer [in Australia] so as "not to waste successful programs" during the unofficial non-ratings period.

"These delays provide a window of opportunity for viewers to upload TV programmes after their American broadcast date, thereby making them available to viewers outside of the US, and viewers within the US who may have missed the program.

"In order to download these shows, all consumers require is a broadband connection and BitTorrent software. While download quality is variable, and depending on its source, BitTorrent users have found the quality to be satisfactory," the report said.

"While there are no accurate Australian BitTorrent usage figures, anecdotal evidence and reports from online forums suggest that Australians are downloading TV programmes in large quantities. Australians are also uploading programs like My Restaurant Rules and Rove," he added.

A previous survey released by Web monitoring company Envisional found Australia as the second largest downloader of online pirated TV programmes in the world (15.6 percent), second to the United Kingdom (18.5 percent) and ahead of the US (7.3 percent).

The report said that increased bandwidth, technological advances and a high demand of US-based TV shows are some of the reasons for the boom in online piracy. It also said that around 70 percent of the piracy occurs through BitTorrent.

A spokesperson from Channel Nine told ZDNet Australia  that "the major reason other countries around the world -- apart from the US -- are downloading [TV] series from the Internet is because the shows are US-based and are often seen many months after the original airdate".

Ben Coppin, chief operating officer at Envisional previously said in a statement that the number of people turning to piracy to satisfy their TV demands will only increase.

"If TV companies were to offer episodes for download at a small cost at the same time as they air offline they could generate revenue in the same way that Apple's iTunes does. However, they must be aware of the dangers of losing their core audience to a delivery method that is free, unregulated and open to anyone with an internet connection," Coppin said.

Malik said unless the TV networks devote immediate attention to the problem of unnecessary delays, "the television industry is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the music industry".

FreeTV and other networks have not responded despite repeated queries.

Recently, there has been an effort to clamp down on the use of BitTorrent technology to aid copyright infringement. The recording industry's first scalp was Perth-based Internet service provider Swiftel.

In March, the Music Industry Piracy Investigations Unit took the ISP to court. The hearing will resume on April 7.

Topics: Legal, Hardware, Piracy

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  • Specifically, TV companies (like Channel 10) are hurting themselves by:

    1) Delaying the broadcast of programmes later than advertised time (especially Channel 10 with Crudfactor etc.)
    2) Showing a few new episodes for 3 or 4 weeks and then substituting with repeat episodes at the same time.
    3) Showing episodes out of order.
  • I don't think there's much on tv worth watching any more to justify all the time and effort involved in trying to download any shows. I would rather rent a DVD if I ever get enough time to sit still for long enough to watch something. My tv entertainment now days seems to be reading and replying to email and going to Ebay on line.
  • It is very true, while i am a technically savvy person and so are my friends, I know many people who are downloading american television shows just after they show in the US. And then, once they become available on DVD, they buy them.

    It's not that most people are trying to get the programs for free, they just want to be able to watch them and talk about them at the same time as the US.

    iTunes for television programs would be an Excellent idea. $5 episodes would be great.
  • I agree with the first comment - the Australian commercial TV networks shoot themselves in the foot by the cavalier way they treat their audiences of series, particularly SciFi series. It is common for episodes to be shown out of order, episodes postponed for several weeks, sometimes for special sports events, but also sometimes for no apparent reason.

    I am completely sick of being treated like this and have vitually stopped watching series on commercial TV. Instead I have started buying my favourite shows on DVD, either locally or from Now I can watch them in the right order, when I want to and without being constantly interupted by mind-numbingly stupid advertisements.
  • The media have a lot to learn about the psychology of their most avid viewers. The clumsy manipulations exemplified by DVD Zoning (a farce) and delayed broadcast schedules are counter-productive.

    When will the meida moguls learn the lessons that software vendors learnt in the 90s that unnecessary and disruptive protection policies don't work and alienate consumers.
  • I don't watch much TV, but when I do it's shows like Lost or Battlestar. I was going to watch them on TV but both 7 and 10 have lost me.
    10 always runs that stupid resturant show overtime, delays an episode due to a stuff up, then moves it to 10.30 at night. So they lost me.
    7 have put off showing lost 2 weeks in a row and it is also months behind the US. Another show i'm not watching on TV.
  • BT is great

    Can get NCIS, Enterprise, Scrubs, All the Law And Orders including Trail By Jury, Lost, Joey, Cold Case, all the CSI's, JAG, Battlestar Galatica, Stargate, OC months before they air in Australia.

    Ive seen Desprate Housewifes all Battlestar Gatlatica Season 1 and SG1 Season 8 and Atlantis Season 1.

    I hear people at tafe saying did u see Depsrate Houswifes last night. And i go yeah saw it months ago.

    Its easiser to download shows. All HDTV and no Ads. Its great
  • In particular with shows like Stargate SG-1/enterprise where the local tv stations don't show episodes in order/jump from one series to another or keep changing the time.

    I can actually watch them in the order they are supposed to appear in - without ads and in hdtv format.
  • Hit the nail on the head,
    it's absolutely stupid that Australians should have to wait so long to get shows that everyone gets as the're released. For example Jeremiah (Tues & Thurs Ch9 12:30) was first shown in the US in 2002, it was shown here season 1 in 2005. ( <- the show
    ( ,- official site)
    3 years difference is crazy and would motivate an aweful lot of people.

    And THEN, they increased the screenings (without advertising) from Thursday to Tuesday as well, I missed an episode. I would gladly pay to get a video/DVD of the missed ep including ads, but not a chance in hell of that happening.

    What about Aus shows that will never come out on DVD eg. My restaurant rules, it wouldn't be too hard to chuck it up on bit torrent for people who had missed it, a day after the show has aired (including the ads). My girlfriend missed an epsisode and now has no clue where the american maitre de of the Brisbane restaurant has gone..

    TV stations, take note lest your viewers vote witht there feet.

  • we DL Simpsons the day it comes out in US through BT or DC++ as Australia is about a year behind, also DL alot of other shows months before there on TV here, why wait?
  • there is something you are all forgetting. Aus TV cuts things out of aus aired shows. ie, I was downloading smallville from the us. When it was released here, they cut out approx 5 minutes from the show, and these were important scenes. They also did it in other episodes. There was no reason why, except, for more TV adds. The scenes were not graphic in any way. I have also noticed it with other shows as well, sometimes its not as important as others. But, it is all part of the story - a story which we are not getting. No wonder people lose interest when all these shows are not making any sense.
  • I believe the networks have mainly themselves to blame.

    They just don't get it that the world through the net is much closer to each other than ever before. So many times people have told me about a great movie or series and gained my interest. Lo and behold the movie of which they speak hasn't even shown here, but is already on dvd overseas, so I buy it. Money they could have made here. Here about a good series. Not only are they into third series over there, but the full first season is available on dvd, so once again I buy it. Go over to a mates place and that series is being hawked as a premiere viewing on Foxtel. Not even on free-to-air TV and they're still 2 years behind and no dvds. So the networks better realise we're findind out about these shows as they are shown overseas. No use trying to make money out of them now that the horse has bolted and overseas has made the money they could have.
  • Demonise it all you like, people are only doing this because of the utterly cynical and contemptuous attitude of the Australian TV industry. For too long we've put up with their tactics of drip-feeding us popular shows, cramming them chock-full of ads, running over scheduled time, promoting other garbage over the top etc etc. Well we choose not to play this game any more 7, 9 and 10. And when your business models have totally collapsed in 5-10 years time, you'll only have yourselves to blame.
  • if countries like ours receive shows many months later after U.S. release then i beleive we should be allowed to dl them, why should tv stations decide when we want to watch shows like C.S.I, 24 etc..

    and on the other note, i think its a great idea that shows should be available for download legitamatly as they are aired, but of course at a fair price, i dont understand why they dont introduce a prepaid card system as they have for mobile phones, where you log into the stations website, enter the cards number and you get credited for downloads, a show shouldnt cost more then a couple bucks.
  • Gee, and what they are only just working this out, the TV stations need to wake up and smell the 21st Century.
    Not only does one have to wait, even when the shows do hit the small screen they half start a season and then stop dead (can anyone say Enterprise or The West Wing).
    Then combine that with watermarks, banner ads, moving times and schedules and then they wonder why ppl just download, watch and then delete.
  • Consumers nowadays are just impatient little people wanting it all now. TV stations in an effort to outdo each other are forgetting the viewers. You can hear the sounds of TV screens switching off over the nation as many turn to what we call "Channel BT". TV stations - if you don't satiate that impatient appetite, someone else will and they will do it over the internet.

    Wait until we have live streaming of US TV over broadband. That will kill free to air Aussie channels. All they will have left to pander is news and local TV dramas.
  • Although I'm not a BitTorrent user I can fully understand the frustration viewers are having with FTA broadcasts.

    The concept of scheduling programs and sticking to it has died. Networks make last minute scheduling changes, pay no heed to the sequencing of episodes, mix episodes from different series, and severley edit programs so as to fit more advertisement in.

    FTA networks need to realise that all these high ratings programs lose values when you chop them up, mix them up, and randomly change the schedule. Predictable ratings are lost because viewers get disillusioned and then seek alternative methods to view their favorite programs.
  • When I started downloading shows before they where aired, I did think that it was not fair to the TV channels, but after doing a few I found the broadcasted shows where missing parts.

    Adding that to delays, out of order, missing or otherwise inconsistant broadcasting of the shows I like, I no longer care that much about doing it.

    As to the ads, due to my need for sleep (with the useless ability to stick to a starting time), I have been skipping ads in free to air for the last several years (tape and fast forward).

    For older shows/series that are just starting here in Australia, most can be purchased on DVD from the US or Canada cheaper and delivered faster than even downloading them.

    There is also the issues of shows that are shown on 10 not ever getting broadcasted in my regional area (do not receive 10), even tho we still get the ads for them, but that is another issue again.
  • Couldn't agree more. The constant schedule changes, on one week gone the next, missing episodes and sometimes even cutting the stuffing out of the show just to fit in adds really angers me and pay TV is just as bad. You'd think that paying for a service would provide you with the latest content earlier than on free to air TV but in this country that is not the case.
  • I can import the ENTIRE season of CSI before the season is halfway through here in Australia.
    We're sick and tired of the Aussie lack luster.
    I'd support downloading provided it was cheap enough.