NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Protecting shows from piracy on YouTube is an obsession for some TV networks, but Univision Communications' efforts haven't been able to thwart a booming market for its illegally uploaded content. The Spanish-language TV network is the most-pirated U.S. broadcast network on YouTube, with mostly clips of blockbuster telenovelas drawing more than twice as many views as Univision's nearest network competitor, Fox.
TubeMogul measured more than 586 million views for Univision's 10 most-pirated shows on YouTube, compared with about 289 million views for clips from the 10 most-pirated programs from Fox, the second-most-pirated broadcast network, and about 121 million for the 10 most-pirated programs from NBC, one of the more aggressive networks in policing its content. TubeMogul is an online-video-analytics company that tracks viewership and trends online.
Of the almost 600 million views for Univision shows, 347 million are from 29,498 pirated clips of the current hot novela "Cuidado con el Angel" ("Careful With the Angel").
"It's 'Cuidado con el Angel' that pushes them over the top," said David Burch, TubeMogul's marketing manager. "If you remove the show, Univision would be the third-most-pirated network, below Fox and ABC."
Most networks make a diligent effort to keep pirated videos of their content off Google-owned YouTube.
"We regularly monitor and require YouTube to take down pirated program materials," said a Univision spokesperson. "It is YouTube's responsibility to abide by those requests. That said, it is not surprising to see the explosive popularity of Univision programming on the internet."
That high level of pirated content may be because Univision and its main program supplier, Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa, are currently battling over who should own the digital rights to Televisa's programming in the U.S. If the two media companies can't reach an agreement quickly, a U.S. judge will decide the issue in March.
Univision and Televisa just ended one court battle last month over a 25-year programming agreement that gives Univision the exclusive rights to Televisa's Mexican shows in the U.S. until 2017. The same judge, Philip Gutierrez, who presided over that trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is scheduled to rule on the digital-rights issue next month, although it's considered more likely that Univision and Televisa will reach their own settlement first. Digital media didn't exist in the early 1990s, when the programming agreement was signed, so Univision claims the deal covers all U.S. broadcast rights, including on the internet, while Televisa insists it should control U.S. internet rights to its shows.
Number of views of clips from the 10 most-pirated shows on each major network
With no clear ownership of digital rights, Univision has little incentive to invest heavily in anti-piracy efforts. And there is a dearth of legitimate Spanish-language online-video content -- for viewers to watch or advertisers to buy -- because with the current impasse, Univision can't use video of Televisa shows on Univision.com, and Televisa has to block U.S. audiences from seeing video on its Mexican site, Esmas.com.
Univision didn't comment on whether the rift has had any impact on the amount of pirated content on YouTube. TubeMogul's Mr. Burch said he has never seen a copyright takedown of any of Univision's shows on YouTube.
That's in stark contrast to NBC, which works closely with YouTube to police its shows to prevent pirated clips from being uploaded at all and take them down swiftly if they slip through. And Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion two years ago.
A YouTube spokesperson said, "We have great Content ID partnerships with hundreds of media companies, and we're happy to work with anyone who wants to manage their content on our site." Content ID is YouTube's free system that allows providers to identify videos of their content and block them if they so choose.
Mr. Burch said he never understood why "Cuidado con el Angel" was consistently in the top 100 videos viewed each week on YouTube until he was sitting in a taqueria with a TV screen one day and realized that the show was a hit novela.
There were 55,867 views of a single pirated clip from episode 142 of the show, in which hero-doctor Juan Miguel pursues and tries to talk to the orphaned heroine, Marichuy, who runs away (and is hit by a car) because she was once married to him but left him after a terrible incident on their wedding night. Later his former wife, who was believed killed in a plane crash reappeared so Marichuy never told him about their baby.
Later, in episode 145, at the hospital (87,070 views), Marichuy tells Juan Miguel she hates him because the car accident he caused has left her blind forever -- or at least until episode 169, when she undergoes risky brain surgery (31,952 views) that Juan Miguel scrubs in for, even though he's a psychiatrist.
Univision's three most-pirated shows are popular novelas produced by Mexico's Televisa that air in the U.S. on Univision. Following "Cuidado con el Angel" are "Fuego en la Sangre" ("Fire in the Blood"), with 10,250 pirated clips that have drawn more than 141 million views on YouTube, and "Las Tontas no Van al Cielo" ("Foolish Girls Don't Go to Heaven"), with 2,195 clips and more than 78 million views.
On TV, Univision regularly beats one or more of the main networks in prime-time ratings among 18- to 34-year-olds. On a recent evening, "Cuidado con el Angel" beat ABC programming at 8 p.m., and "Fuego en la Sangre" tied with that network at 9 p.m., according to Univision's overnight ratings.
The YouTube traffic in pirated Spanish-language clips highlights that Hispanics are active internet users and, according to industry research, are as likely to watch online video as non-Hispanics -- and more likely to download music and listen to internet radio.
In measuring views of clips from the 10 most-pirated shows for each network, TubeMogul excluded official versions and promotional trailers posted by the networks themselves, Mr. Burch said. It wasn't possible to tell how many of the views may have come from outside the U.S. market, he said.