Britain has the dubious honor of being named the world’s largest market for downloading pirated TV, according to Internet monitoring company Envisional. According to the firm, increased bandwidth, technological advances and a growing demand for early access to popular American TV shows is driving the negative trend.
High-quality, pirated versions of popular American TV shows are available on the Internet within hours of being aired in the U.S. and months before they are aired in the UK. Envisional data shows that downloads of ABC drama “Desperate Housewives” have shot up, for example, from 40,000 illegal downloads of episode one to over 60,000 for the most recent episode.
“The Internet is revolutionizing how people watch, obtain, and view television programs,” said Envisional chief operating officer Ben Coppin. “It’s now as easy to download a pirate TV show as it is to program a VCR. While this brings immense power to the TV viewer, questions must be asked about how television studios and networks will survive when the advertising so essential to supporting them is deleted and syndication fees are affected.”
Technological advances have benefited the television industry over the years, but now these advances are contributing to the recent surge in TV piracy by enabling high-quality and relatively small downloads.
An hour-long TV show is normally encoded to a file of around 350 MB, which can be downloaded within a couple of hours on a typical home broadband connection.
Coppin said the quality is good enough that downloads can be watched comfortably on a computer monitor or, when burned on to a CD or DVD, on a television. With the use of broadband increasing and costs decreasing, the number of pirate TV programs being downloaded via the Web is rising dramatically, according to Envisional.
The Motion Picture Association of America and its international counterpart, the Motion Picture Association, estimate that the U.S. motion picture industry loses in excess of US$3 billion annually in potential worldwide revenue due to piracy. Organizations like these are leading the charge to fight illegal downloads in the U.S. and abroad.
Phil Leigh, senior analyst at Inside Digital Media, Inc., told the E-Commerce times that the MPAA is raining lobbyists on Congress “like plagues in Egypt.” But, he added, that may not be the most effective approach.
“Like a lot of established industries, the Motion Picture Association is all for the free market until the free market works against them,” Leigh said. “Then they want to control it with legislation. They ought to just launch legalized services that provide what consumers want: the ability to see programs when they want to see them.”