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Global torrent

April 6, 2007

Observers of the media and entertainment scene understand the tremendous power of torrent sites to wreck domestic havoc for the networks.

It’s well known that 720p copies of Fox’s 24 find their way onto torrent sites 20 minutes after the show goes off the air.

However, most people tend to see the issue through a US lens, when it’s really a global issue.

Worldwide sales of TV shows contribute significant chunks of revenue to the networks, but it appears those sales are being undermined.

The Swedish Broadcast Statistics Institute just released their 2007 report, which included the following findings:

–    Swedish youngsters watch an average of 1 hour of pirated television a week
–    The most popular show is Prison Break- 35% of the past months viewers had seen the show via P2P networks
–    The main reasons given for watching shows via P2P were- control over viewing times and not having to wait for the shows to make across to the broadcast networks in Sweden

The last point is especially interesting; although movie studios are increasingly looking to global release dates for movies, TV show sales lag behind.

One interesting reverse example is the Discovery Channel’s Blue Planet, currently airing in the US, but the series first aired on the BBC last year. Many people here in the US have already seen the series,  they downloaded it a year ago from torrent sites.

Three questions:

1.    Can the TV networks speed up their global sales process and sell their shows faster?
2.    As the networks increasingly look to offer content online through their own websites, will they “lock out” overseas viewers?
3.    Will the faster adoption of US shows lead an accelerated adoption of trends and ideas in overseas markets?

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