Top 10 Pirated TV Shows Of 2013 & What Networks Should Do About It

TorrentFreak have released its list of the Top 10 pirated shows of 2013:

game of thrones

Rank / Show / Estimated Downloads / Estimated US Viewers

  1. Game of Thrones / 5,900,000 / 5,500,000
  2. Breaking Bad 4,200,000 / 10,280,000
  3. The Walking Dead / 3,600,000 / 16,110,000
  4. The Big Bang Theory / 3,400,000 / 20,440,000
  5. Dexter / 3,100,000 /2,800,000
  6. How I Met Your Mother / 3,000,000 / 9,400,000
  7. Suits / 2,600,000 / 3,520,000
  8. Homeland /2,400,000 /2,380,000
  9. Vikings /2,300,000 /6,000,000
  10. Arrow / 2,200,000 /3,240,000

Firstly: Note how many of them are “genre” shows. What this really means is that “genre” shows aren’t niche anymore but are now the new mainstream.

AMC has the (dubious?) honour of having two shows high on the list but it’s HBO’s fanboy fave Game of Thrones that tops the list.

Most of these are on paid cable networks in the US but a few like How I Met You Mother & Arrow are on free TV.

So what does this mean? It seems to me that TV content creators still need to do a lot more to offer programming online and via as many platforms as they can. There has been much headway but these figures prove more needs to be done. For example, if Netflix had access to Game Of Thrones that would have meant fewer illegal downloads and more licensing cash for HBO.

There are three reasons people download illegally:

  • It’s free
  • It’s easy
  • It’s quick

Now of course not everyone who downloads content via Torrents or other illegal methods will be willing to pay even if there is an easy to use and reasonably priced online offering.

But there are a significant number of people who would and they only stick with torrents because of lack of access or price. And that’s where the “It’s quick” and “It’s easy” arguments come into play.

If your content is not available readily and legally then you are practically inviting illegal downloads – customers are demanding and want content quickly and easy. Every extra step adds unnecessary barriers for the viewer.

Networks are starting to get it and platforms like HBO Go are great – but the US isn’t the only market out there…

Global Thinking

In some case programming is not available in every region. This hugely contributes to international pirating. I’m a fan of NBC’s Parks & Recreation & Community but here in the UK no one is broadcasting those shows in a timely fashion if at all. Now NBC Universal could offer the show via an ad –supported platform to UK fans but instead misses out entirely while UK fans resort to torrents or wait months / years for DVD box sets.

It reminds me of the days when Hollywood movies would come out in international regions months after their US release. The film industry learned the hard way that was not the right way to do things and now day-and-date international releases are the standard. In some cases big Hollywood tentpole movies even come out in foreign territories before the US releases to take advantage of local holidays.

The Social Question

Nowadays you can’t escape hot shows like Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, Agents of Shield, Community and WWE  dominating trending topics on Twitter and other social sites. They transcend regular TV water-cooler chat and become pop culture moments in of themselves.

We’ve all seen how big twists and cliff hangers can send the web into meltdown.

But if a programme is not available to you because you don’t live in the right region then as a consumer and viewer you miss out on that shared social experience. And this means TV networks are missing out on generating global buzz and interest around their shows.

If a fan in Brazil is seeing a show light up Twitter and Facebook but can’t watch it legally in their country then that network has just lost a potential customer.

Were in an era of high quality serialised TV with a highly connected international audience. We need to learn from the lessons from the music industry and how it failed adapt to online distribution.

Surely it’s better for a content holder to offer programming online either paid or ad-supported and reap the rewards of advertising and social buzz? Social buzz is difficult to quantify perhaps but can lead to more customers and highly effective positive world of mouth.

Pulling people into their own platforms also breeds brand loyalty and encourages viewing of other content from the same creator / network and eventually converts prospects into paid customers. After all every programme viewed is another touchstone in the route to conversion.

So why are content owners missing out?

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