Fox‘s 8-Day First Run show Hulu limitation triggers BitTorrent piracy increases and surges overnight. 20th Century Fox is currently feeling the burn from a corporate decision that backfired in their face, hitting their wallet, while upping the status of BitTorrent, and making the problem of illegally downloading copyrighted material even more prevalent.
It’s been a week since Fox stopped offering free access to its TV-shows the day after they air on television. The TV-studio took this drastic step in the hope of getting more people to watch their shows live and thus make more revenue. TV-viewers, however, are outraged by the decision and have massively turned to pirated sources to watch their favorite shows.
Fox instituted the change last Monday. Under the new rules, paying Hulu members and cable subscribers can still access Fox shows the next day, but viewers who’ve been watching for free must now wait eight days to see episodes online.
Brillant move on Fox’s part. Their executives must not realize how easy it is to obtain the lastest episode of a television show online after it airs. Depending on your connection to the Internet, you can obtain the latest episode of your favorite show in a matter of minutes after it has been uploaded that night after it has aired. If you are a high definition aficionado, there are even HD versions available. Hulu’s presence online
drastically decreased TV-show piracy in the U.S. Viewers are happy with the legal streaming option it offers them, but not all studios see that as a success.
It is curious that Fox pulled this move now, before the next season of Fringe begins airing late next month. Hopefully this mistake can be corrected by then. It they continue this policy for the upcoming season of Fringe and House M.D., Hulu will be throwing away huge potential ad revenue and so will Fox, who licenses their shows for online viewing through Hulu.
One of the main motivations for people to download and stream TV-shows from unauthorized sources is availability. If fans can’t get a show through legal channels they turn to pirated alternatives.
What Fox and other TV studios do not realize or want to accept is that it is not they who dictiate when a viewer can view a show after they air it, it is technology and the Internet. It is a free computer program, bandwidth, and desire without thinking about moral or legal consequences that is now the shepard of recently aired episodes of TV shows on the internet, not corporate money man, corporate deciders or corporate interests.
Hulu has targeted advertising, and its usual one-day delay is long enough to encourage live viewing to some degree without being so long as to inspire people to turn to illegal means. Piracy has no advertising, which is fine for the viewer but bad for the networks, and popular shows go up quickly enough that an individual could reasonably download and watch a show the same night it airs. I get that networks are still figuring out how to make money in the age of the Internet, but let’s face it: the Internet isn’t going anywhere. Networks need to learn to work with it, not shun it in hopes people will revert to more old-fashioned methods.
It happened to the music industry through Napster and the TV indiustry is seeing that they are just as vulnerable through BitTorrent. With BitTorrent, there is no main site to shut down, no main hub to sue. The TV show industry has to wake up to the new reality (give it to them quickly or see it go out the door for free), the new world ushered in by technology, embrace it or lose even more profits. Give the people what they want and desire. Right now, its instant TV show gratification.
[Hulu’s…] decision goes directly against the wishes of the public but Fox will take this disappointment as collateral damage in the hope that the delay will result in more live viewers and better deals with cable and satellite distributors.
Well, that did not happen and they were wrong. People opted for the viable and free yet illegal alternative.
Over the last week TorrentFreak tracked two Fox shows on BitTorrent to see if there was an upturn in the number of downloads compared to the previous weeks, and the results are as expected. For both Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef the download numbers have surged.
During the first 5 days, the number of downloads from the U.S. for the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen increased by 114% compared to the previous 3 episodes. For MasterChef the upturn was even higher with 189% more downloads from the U.S. For MasterChef; the extra high demand may in part have been facilitated by the fact that it was the season finale.
Aside from BitTorrent, there are of course many other options for people to catch up with a missed episode. YouTube for example, from where tens of thousands of people streamed the latest Hell’s Kitchen episode.
Instead of Hulu or Fox, the pirates get the praise. On YouTube and BitTorrent sites many users thank the uploaders for making the shows available.
“You so rock and allowed me to keep my promise to my son. I promised if he cleaned for one hour he could watch Hell’s Kitchen with me. He was excited and then disappointed that we couldn’t watch it on Hulu or Fox.com,” WithurShield writes.
“Thanks a lot for uploading these, Hulu used to be my go-to but alas, they have failed me,” minniemica adds.
On the other hand, several users who went to Hulu expecting to see a fresh episode left comments berating Fox (although most target Hulu) for their decision not to make the episodes available for free.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I went to Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef. Right in the middle of the series idiot at Hulu decided to through in the pay services. At least have the decency to wait till the end [sic],” one commenter writes on Hulu.
“What I don’t like is up until now I have been able to watch the episode of Hell’s Kitchen the day after it airs and all of a sudden they now want me to pay for it?” another commenter adds.
There is no doubt that the Hulu delay is not in the best interests of TV-viewers. Although it might be a good business decision in the short term, one has to doubt whether driving people to ‘pirated’ content is a wise choice. To many viewers it is clearly a step backward.
Instead of artificial restrictions the public demands flexibility when it comes to entertainment. They want to decide when and where they want to watch something, and right now video streaming sites, BitTorrent and even the old VCR do a better job at this than Fox.
What do you think of the Fox/Hulu delay maneuver and illegal downloading?