Illegal downloads of Fox TV shows rise after delay

Fox shows appear to be downloaded illegally from torrent sites at a higher rate after the company institutes an eight-day waiting period before making new TV shows available online.

Christopher MacManus
Crave contributor Christopher MacManus regularly spends his time exploring the latest in science, gaming, and geek culture -- aiming to provide a fun and informative look at some of the most marvelous subjects from around the world.
Christopher MacManus
3 min read
Things are getting a little too hot for Fox after delaying content to online streaming distributors. Fox Networks

Illegal downloads of some Fox Networks TV shows have increased since the company established an eight-day delay before its TV shows are made available on Hulu and Fox.com, according to TorrentFreak.

The torrent news Web site tracked several popular Fox shows--including Hell's Kitchen and MasterChef--on BitTorrent over the last week to see if there had been an increase in illegal download activity. The results are alarming.

"During the first five days, the number of downloads from the U.S. for the latest episode of Hell's Kitchen increased by 114 percent compared to the previous three episodes," said the editor in chief of TorrentFreak, who posts under the name Ernesto. "For MasterChef, the upturn was even higher, with 189 percent more downloads from the U.S."

Did Fox's plan to delay content delivery backfire? Several CNET readers were quite vocal in our previous post about the eight-day delay.

CNET reader johnseanconn wrote, "Content providers should be using the Web to pick up the viewers they are missing through a TV service, not using it to just supplement a service people already have."

Another comment, from CNET member karpenterskids, said, "This doesn't provide a better benefit to cable consumers. This provides the same benefit to cable consumers, while screwing the rest of us. I'll end up watching even less of their shows. Less ad revenue for them!"

Others seem to find it odd that people are getting upset in the first place. SergeM256 writes, "They are giving it for free; it is over-the-air. Watching online only means more convenience--I don't have to schedule my day around [a] TV schedule or bother with setting up [a] VCR. Online: more convenient, lower quality, same commercials, should be same money for network."

Backlash against the move is easy to find on Hulu. "First it was two or three commercials per show. Then it became six or seven. Then it became two or even three commercials per break," says Hulu forum user Lisa Leone. "Then I found out they weren't showing full episodes of a lot of shows anymore. Now they want me to have a Dish account? And there will probably still be commercials. No thanks. Count me among the folks saying bye-bye."

Scott Grogin, senior vice president of communications for the Fox Networks Group, believes there is merit in the TV-to-Internet-streaming delay.

"Authenticating viewers is not about making sure they only watch live...in fact, quite the opposite. We support a 'TV Everywhere' proposition and are working with our distribution partners to achieve that goal. We want the 90-plus million households who pay to watch our programming via cable/satellite/telco to receive maximum benefit and ultimately be able to watch live, via DVR, on [video on demand], online, or through one of the various tablet apps that allow in-home viewing," Grogin told CNET. "We are actively in negotiations with all major providers regarding authentication of their customers and we hope to announce several more agreements before the start of the new television season in mid-September."

Do you believe that a delay in content delivery is the best solution? What would you do about this if you were in charge of a major TV network?