BitTorrent lures Australia back to its convict roots

Australian broadcasters are mistaken if they believe that it's possible to quell TV show piracy purely by launching iTunes-like video download services. Such a venture would flop faster than a Vanilla Ice comeback album, opines Asher Moses.

Asher Moses, CNET.com.au
commentary Australian broadcasters are mistaken if they believe that it's possible to quell TV show piracy purely by launching iTunes-like video download services. Such a venture would flop faster than a Vanilla Ice comeback album, opines Asher Moses.

According to Envisional, a web monitoring company, Australians are responsible for 15.6 percent of all online TV piracy, bested only by Britain, which accounts for 38.4 percent. The US lags behind in third position at 7.3 percent. These figures are alarming on their own, but become far scarier when one considers that Australia is home to almost 20 million people, whilst Britain's population is closer to 60 million. As a result, our TV piracy per capita is -- according to Envisional -- the highest in the world.

The most popular pirate TV program is 24, but hit shows The Simpsons, The O.C., Desperate Housewives and Lost all rank highly on the list.

There are a number of proposed solutions to the piracy pandemic, one of which involves broadcasters creating iTunes-like online stores, where users can purchase footage of their favourite shows on a per-episode basis. This may prove successful in the US since the convenience of being able to download shows for playback on your own schedule is worth the small fee, but it'll never work in Australia.

The reason is simple -- few Net-savvy users are willing to wait months on end for popular US shows to hit our shores. This, not convenience, is the main factor enticing fans to pirate their TV shows online. From the average viewer's perspective, the prospect of downloading an episode of your favourite TV show from a fast BitTorrent link less than half an hour after it's aired in the US is far more attractive than paying money for the privilege six months down the track, where the content's portability is likely to be hobbled by a cryptic DRM scheme anyway.

Australian broadcasters need to embrace globalisation and realise that, in an Internet age where consumers are used to immediate satisfaction, releasing shows months after they air in the US just won't cut it. Nor will trying to pry consumers over to a paid-for online download service that suffers from similar delays. If we're able to watch live feeds of worldwide sporting events at virtually the same time as the rest of the world, why should we put up with such long delays for TV shows?

The above is less pertinent to purchasing tracks from the iTunes music store -- which has proven successful in Australia -- because the aforementioned lead-time doesn't affect music releases on anywhere near the same scale as it does TV shows and movies. Downloading tracks from iTunes is so easy and inexpensive that the allure of piracy isn't nearly as strong.

It's time for broadcasters to get with the program (no pun intended) and revise their archaic scheduling methods, or risk more viewers deflecting to BitTorrent services for their TV fix. What's more, the rapid uptake of media centre PCs will only speed up this process should broadcasters remain idle.

Would you use a local video download service to pay for your favourite TV shows, given the current broadcasting climate? Have your say below!

 

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