A new Australian study says “huge delays” in airing overseas TV programming locally are to blame for an increase in piracy in the Land Down Under.
The UK’s Sky TV blunder back in 2004, where a delay in airing it in the United States by some 3 months led to its widespread distribution over P2P and file-sharing networks for users to see ahead of its regularly scheduled appearance on the Sci-Fi channel, was the real first example of what happens when you don’t offer people legitimate legal alternatives to piracy.
Sky TV’s experience has apparently not been observed by Australian broadcasters who instead of a mere 3 month delay, as was the case with the Battlestar Galactica affair, have in fact an average 7.6 to 16.7 month delay instead! This exorbitant time delay just begs for people to seek out “alternative methods” to acquire their TV programming.
Based on a “representative sample of 119 current or recent free-to-air TV series or specials”, it took an average of 17 months for programs to be shown in Australia after first airing overseas, a gap that has only increased over the past two years, according to Alex Malik, technology lawyer and researcher who is in the final stages of a PhD in law at the University of Technology Sydney.
Did he say 17 months? (Gulp)
“Over the past two years, average Australian broadcast delays for free-to-air television viewers have more than doubled from 7.6 to 16.7 months,” the study reads.
He found that the root cause for TV programming piracy is the reluctance of Australian broadcasters to provide legal online alternatives to BitTorrent and other file-sharing programs where content can not only be obtained for free but, also quickly and effortlessly.
“While film and music content owners have increasingly attempted to cater for digital consumers … Australian TV networks continue to appear to be unable or unwilling to change their programming policies or provide new digital based options for consumers unwilling to wait to view their favorite TV programs.”
To make matters worse, the delay only appears to be increasing over the 2 years that the study was conducted.
One individual, Rupert Packer, who comments on the situation in a related blog in The Sydney Morning Herald, rightly notes that “Wouldn’t you sack anybody in another industry that had become that incompetent – doubling the delay in getting a product into the market?
Very true indeed but, oddly enough it seems as though the execs in the TV and movie industry are immune to any such business minded concerns. Look at the ongoing 8-year-long failure by the RIAA as a perfect example of how the status quo seems to be the best way to keep your job.
So does piracy become a legitimate moral alternative if the content provider refuses to listen to its customers?
Asher Moses, author of the aforementioned blog, notes:
While I in no way condone piracy, the illegal path also offers far greater flexibility – you don’t have to conform your viewing habits to the broadcasters’ schedules (which often change without much notice), and you can view episodes on a variety of portable devices, not just your TV set.
Respondents to his blog point out even further reasons for making a case that piracy is the proper choice in this case:
Tyroga – “The big shows like Lost which have off-air components like “The Lost Experience” are lost on Australian Audiences who have to wait sometimes over 12 months for episodes to air. The Lost Experience included more information about the show which was unavailable in the program and which Australians may never know.”
Ruthyuki999 – “Yes, the delay is simply ridiculous. It also means if you are following the show, you cannot participate in any online discussions and such, without the future plot being spoiled. A wait of a couple of weeks would be infuriating for that – because over a year is just stupid. I do get pirated copies of some TV shows through BitTorrent. And I think it is justified – if I could get them another way, I would (even it means paying a little).”
Andrew – “I download television shows regularly via BitTorrent. Why should I wait for Australian free to air stations to show programs and have to sit through their ads and be told what time it is on.. Their inability to adapt to changes will mean they loose out on ratings and therefore advertising.. Everyone now has access to the internet and more and more people integrate their computer into their home entertainment systems – its the way of the future.”
And probably the best response of all…….
Faraday – Sure, I’d watch current tv if there was anything worth watching, and the shows I liked were not one or two seasons behind. The internet has meant that the concept of waiting eighteen months for a show to air means that you’ve either been spoiled by someone from the USA, or you’ve read a synopsis of the show. Now, excuse me whilst I go back to finishing my Torrent downloads of this week’s USA aired episodes of Smallville, Supernatural, Prison Break, Battlestar Galactica and Heroes. Sure, those shows will eventually get around to being here, but why should I have to wait when I already pay for an internet service that has the technology to do this? Besides, I get to see them without all the advertising – an infinitely more acceptable option. The internet has made the world just that little bit smaller, and we are no longer an isolated island in the southern Pacific ocean. It’s time to step up and act like we are in the 21st century.
Well said Farady, well said. It is time for TV broadcasters and other content providers to “…step up and act like we are in the 21st century.” I wouldn’t hold my breath though.
What would you do if in your country content delivery was delayed by 17 months, especially all of you “Lost” fans? I think we’d all do the same.
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