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INTERNET PIRACY OF U.S. TV SHOWS ON THE RISE

Widespread Broadband Makes Video Theft Easier; Commercials Being Stripped Out

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Online piracy of TV shows is on the rise, according to a study released yesterday by Magna Global.

The Interpublic Group of Cos. agency also issued a list of the top 10 programs pirated around the world

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on peer-to-peer site BitTorrent Networks in February. Programs leading the list were 24, Stargate Atlantis and The Simpsons. Worse yet, peer-to-peer network users are routinely stripping out the commercials before distributing the programs, for free, across the global network, the study found.

Just the beginning
"As broadband access continues to grow and as access speeds continue to increase, we believe that we are only observing the beginning of these phenomena," the Magna Global report said.

It also quotes Envisional, a U.K.-based peer-to-peer traffic-monitoring company, which claims that on a worldwide basis, downloads of 24 via BitTorrent rose from an average of 35,000 for each episode from last year's season to 95,000 for each episode this year. Likewise, downloads of ABC's Desperate Housewives rose from 40,000 for the debut episode in the fall 2004 to 60,000 for more recent episodes.

NBC's 'Joey'
The German-based SR Consulting found that season one episodes of NBC's Joey were downloaded 25,000 times in the U.S. and 100,000 globally during the period of Jan. 15 to Feb. 26.

The report, written by Brian Wieser, Magna Global's vice president and director of industry analysis, takes traditional media companies to task for not better exploiting the online world as an area for potential revenues.

Media companies, however, tend to argue that protecting their lucrative DVD revenues is more important than Webcasting programs for online pirates to copy.

Product placement
The study also suggests that product placement will become even more important as downloaders strip out traditional spots. Possible ways of exploiting peer-to-peer networks, according to the study, include distributing classic commercials for free, trial versions of software or branded entertainment content with a consumer "call to action."

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