TV piracy stings marketers

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Not only is online piracy of TV shows on the rise, according to a study from Magna Global-but peer-to-peer network users are routinely stripping the commercials before distributing the programs for free.

"As broadband access continues to grow and as access speeds continue to increase, we believe that we are only observing the beginning of this phenomena," said the report from the Interpublic Group of Cos. agency, which also issued a list of the top 10 programs pirated around the world on peer-to-peer site BitTorrent Networks in February 2005. The programs topping the list were "24," "Stargate Atlantis," and "The Simpsons."


The study 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. SR Consulting in Germany 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 Jan. 15 to Feb. 26. But to put things in perspective, "24" was seen by 11.6 million TV viewers last week.

Authored by Brian Wieser, Magna Global's VP-director of industry analysis, the report takes traditional media companies to task for not better exploiting the online world as an area for potential revenue. But the media companies tend to argue that protecting lucrative DVD revenue is more important than Web-casting programs for online pirates to copy.

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

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