Piracy, it’s a very dirty word when TV programme creators discuss how consumers can easily access their shows using only an internet connection and a laptop. However, it is a rapid phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down, but has the penny dropped in favour of the producer or pirate?

Why do we pirate TV shows?

It’s a question that could be debated all day, but there are many reasons for pirating your favourite TV show, ranging from wanting it instantly, to freeing yourself from the age old tradition of TV schedules.

Penny for the Pirate: Game of Thrones
Picture Credit: theguardian.com

The UK has a history of releasing shows from abroad a few weeks later (with Game of Thrones being the exception to the rule), so it’s a case of “If the show isn’t there, we’ll pirate the show!”, which is why more media consumers are turning to piracy sites such as BitTorrent and Showbox to watch content. It’s understandable for audiences to want to work it this way, rather than pay for a TV show through Sky, Netflix, or BT subscription – it saves the consumer hundreds of pounds a year.

The “Breaking Bad” Effect

Penny for the Pirate: Breaking Bad
Picture Credit: Forbes

Breaking Bad, the show that made millions ‘binge watch’ on their TV sets, has been a big positive for piracy. According to Torrentfreak.com, the final episode was downloaded more than half a million times. Creator Vince Gilligan said that with ‘online piracy’, it helped the show increase “brand awareness” – an unexpected positive for the producers and writers.

It’s not all negative for TV piracy, as if there’s a mass audience going for a show on the scale of Breaking Bad, then it helps rather than hinders a show’s reputation for channel commissioners, and keeps the show on air. That means more sales for merchandise and a lasting legacy for a generation of consumers, which is not all doom and gloom. Pirate power prevails!

Who loses out? The consumer or producer?

Penny for the Pirate: TV pirate
Picture Credit: Gizmodo

TV is the second most pirated digital media platform in the UK for internet users, with 52m illegal downloads per year of programmes. That’s 52m people lost for the studio who is trying to make a profit from a show that costs them money to make. TV shows are very expensive to create, and it’s very simple to determine who loses out.

The producer loses out not only in terms of money, but in terms of legitimate distribution too. The channel that’s trying to sell the show to as many countries as possible ends up depriving audiences of a worldwide hit as a result of pirating. In turn, this means the consumer misses out. In a nutshell, both producer and consumer lose the TV piracy battle.

Should we be free to continue pirating, or do the responsible thing of paying for content?

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