Tech-driven TV piracy rampant: report

MUMBAI: Guess whom the huge US television networks are most at risk from? None other than their fans.

As fans increasingly turn towards downloaded video content from the file sharing peer-to-peer networks it's the huge TV networks that are taking a beating.

A report released by the US-based media services company Mangla Global reveals that consumers' use of peer-to-peer has recently increased over a period of time.

And those who are most affected by this trend are US TV networks. As the US shows are aired in countries like UK after months of their original telecast, fans bypass the delay by watching the pirated versions downloaded through peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent.

A three-fold rise in the downloads of the popular TV show 24 on BitTorrent networks bears out the findings of the report. The downloads showed an increase from an average of 35,000 per episode in the 2003-2004 season to 95,000 for the 2004-2005 season.

Quoting a February survey by the UK-based peer-to-peer traffic monitoring company Envisional, the report lists out the 10 most popular pirated TV downloads worldwide as -- 24, Stargate Atlantis, The Simpsons, Enterprise, Stargate SG-1, The O.C., Smallville, Desperate Housewives, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost.

BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer protocol designed to transfer files. Users connect directly to send and receive portions of a file, while a central tracker coordinates the action of all peers and manages connections without knowledge of the contents of the files being distributed.

With the new technology-driven trend gaining popularity, marketers happen to be one worried lot. This is because TV shows available on peer-to-peer networks are commercial-free. But Magna Global vice-president, director of industry analysis Brian Wieser still feels that advertisers will be able to turnaround things by reaching consumers who use file-sharing networks.

One suggestion is to spread branded entertainment, virally, throughout the networks. Marketers can also take up distribution of individual songs or videos through a website.

The report criticises the entertainment industry's defence-oriented stance in taking on the technology. It points out that tactics like placing decoy copies of programmes and lawsuits can only delay the inevitable.

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