You can now watch 90pc of popular TV shows online legally
Ivan Radford | On 09, Dec 2014Reading time: 4 mins
You can now watch 90 per cent of popular films and TV shows online legally in the UK.
New research by KPMG shows that nine out of 10 most popular movies and TV shows are available on VOD platforms. The majority of them (61 per cent) can be viewed on pay-per-view platforms (Electronic Sell Through), such as iTunes or Google Play. However, the biggest transformation, has been through SVOD platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, which now make up 31 per cent of the titles considered in KPMG’s study.
It helps that deals are increasingly struck to provide content in the UK as close to US broadcast as possible. Constantine, for example, premieres on Amazon Prime in the UK every Saturday – within hours of its NBC broadcast. Sky’s recently launched NOW TV platform, meanwhile, has boosted the SVOD sector, allowing non-Sky customers to watch things online that would otherwise be unavailable for many months after their pay-TV broadcast.
John McVay, Chief Executive of Pact, told Broadband TV News: “There has been a huge transformation in the digital availability of quality film and TV content on offer in the UK in recent years. Today’s report highlights just how much progress we have made as an industry. However, these legal services still have to compete with criminal websites making the same content available for free and contributing nothing to the legitimate creative economy. Successfully tackling piracy remains a critical part of helping these legitimate platforms grow.”
The industry continues to face the challenge of piracy, with UK ISPs recently increasing the number of illegal sites they block by court order to 93.
TV programmes are rarely available to rent at lower costs, notes KPMG, although this is mostly due to it being “uneconomic” compared to the standard method of releasing TV shows in an entire season, a la DVD box sets. With 90 per cent of popular content available legally, though, why pirate at all?
The answer mostly appears to be related to access. In Australia, for example, comedian Louis CK found that people had downloaded his show to watch because it wasn’t available.
“[In the US] weirdos pirate things,he told Gizmodo, “but in Australia, moms and dads pirate video, because we’re not letting them buy it. We’re keeping it from them.
“Everybody in the world is like ‘take my fucking credit card’ and just let me have the thing, and I’ll pay. But if you’re going to be a pain in the ass, fuck you! I can steal all of it!”
Netflix is launching in Australia and New Zealand next year, but already has a base of members that use it to illegitimately access the US catalogue of content because the shows and movies are otherwise not available online.
Outside of Australia, though, piracy continues despite availability through legal VOD.
Game of Thrones this year, for example, was available legally online for the first time via NOW TV, meaning people could stream it at the same time as its UK broadcast – and within 24 hours of its US premiere. The Season 4 finale, though, was the most pirated TV show in history, according to TorrentFreak.
This autumn, Gotham launched in the US on 22nd September on Fox and was downloaded illegally 1.33 million times, 600,000 of those coming within a day of its premiere, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio.
Apart from Australia, the main countries responsible were the US, the UK, Brazil and Canada. This is despite the fact that Gotham premiered in Britain just three weeks later on Channel 5 – for free. (It’s released exclusively on SVOD on Netflix next year worldwide, post-initial TV broadcast.)
“Three weeks!” you might cry. “That’s forever!” In the US, though, Gotham’s pilot was downloaded 177,000 times – despite it being available to stream the very next day on Fox.com and Fox Now, also for free, without even requiring authentication.
Fox commented in a statement: “This report underscores the need for effective intellectual property protections. Simply put, pirating TV shows threatens the rights of everyone within the creative community, puts real jobs at risk and endangers our ability to continue producing this quality content.”
This trend continues, ironically, as TV has never been more valued by fans, with shows from Breaking Bad to True Detective hailed as masterpieces of a golden age. As with music, some people pirate content and then pay for it later; a try before you buy approach. Nonetheless, we have reached the sad point where Variety reports the “silver lining” of the piracy situation being that Gotham’s pilot “avoided any leaks” between its finishing day in May and its eventual broadcast. Congratulations! Your show was pirated – but at least it didn’t happen sooner.
Perhaps the answer can be found in the research published earlier this year by Stephen Follows, which found that 39 per cent of film professionals – those arguably most familiar with the impact of piracy upon creative industries – admitted to ilegally downloading video content.
90 per cent of the most popular films and TV shows are now available legally online. Has piracy, then, simply become a habit?