TV program delays ‘turning viewers into pirates’
Huge delays in airing overseas TV shows locally are turning Australians into pirates, says a study conducted by technology lawyer and researcher Alex Malik.
It took an average of 17 months for programs to be shown in Australia after first airing overseas, a gap that has only increased over the past two years, the study found.
The findings were based on a “representative sample of 119 current or recent free-to-air TV series or specials”, said Malik, who is in the final stages of a PhD in law at the University of Technology Sydney.
He was previously a legal counsel for the Australian Recording Industry Association, as well as a senior legal officer at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Malik admitted there had been some signs of progress recently – programs such as The O.C. air within days of being shown in the US – but he insisted the overall delays had become longer.
“Over the past two years, average Australian broadcast delays for free-to-air television viewers have more than doubled from 7.6 to 16.7 months,” the study reads.
Malik also studied comments by TV viewers on various internet forums, and concluded: “These delays are one of the major factors driving Australians to use BitTorrent and other internet-based peer-to-peer programs to download programs illegally from overseas, prior to their local broadcast.”
He goes on to criticise Australian broadcasters for their apparent unwillingness to allow shows to be downloaded legally online.
“While film and music content owners have increasingly attempted to cater for digital consumers … Australian TV networks continue to appear to be unable or unwilling to change their programming policies or provide new digital based options for consumers unwilling to wait to view their favourite TV programs.”
Overseas, services such as Apple’s iTunes Store offer downloads of numerous shows from most of the major US networks, but this is not yet possible in Australia.
Network Ten is making some headroom here – its recently revamped website will soon offer entire programs for download as soon as they air, said Damien Smith, the network’s general manager of digital media.
“For some programs there will be the availability of full episodes, for others it will be highlights and short clips, for other programs it will be additional web-only content,” he said.
Ten has already experimented with TV show downloads, recently offering the series two premiere of Supernatural as a free download five days before its first airing.
ABC also offers a number of its shows for streaming through its website.