Australian TV Networks Haven't Learned A Damn-Thing From Piracy

Illegal piracy of TV and movies is becoming an epidemic around the world, and Australia is leading the way. We're top of the charts for illegal downloads of new shows and have been for some time. So with piracy so high, why in the name of sanity would Channel Seven decide to delay the screening Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, of one of this year's most anticipated shows, by not just a few hours or even a whole day, but by a whole week? Have you people learned nothing?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D debuted in America last night, and according to the early numbers it's the highest rated drama premiere in four years on American television. Instead of fast-tracking its hot new property into last night or even tonight's schedule, Seven has decided to wait a whole week until 2 October to air the premiere which has already been online to download in beautiful 720p for about 23 hours now.

Have TV networks learned nothing in recent years? All you have to do is look back through the headlines to see that piracy -- particularly of TV shows -- is a problem that is getting worse and worse as seasons progress.

Game Of Thrones is a lightning rod for TV pirates. Last year, it was revealed that more people watch the show via BitTorrent than they do on TV, starving HBO of a massive revenue stream. Of all the countries in the world, Australia was declared to be the number-one downloader per capita of the swords-and-sandals epic (Update: Look. Some of them wear swords, some of them wear sandals. Deal). Not once, not twice, but three times we have held the jaunted crown of internet piracy.

Breaking Bad is another example. A show about crooks seems to certainly attract them, with more Aussies pulling down the show illegally over the internet tubes than anyone else in the world. Again.

The BBC's Top Gear is one of the worst offenders, with Aussie viewers made to wait over a week for Foxtel to air the episodes of the world's most popular car show, while the torrents sit online just waiting to be downloaded.

Those are just three massive titles that attract pirates by the shipload, but there are loads more, like The Walking Dead, How I Met Your Mother, Hannibal, and The Big Bang Theory. Even the goddamn Vampire Diaries attracts pirates like moths to a poorly-scripted flame.

Torrenting is so popular that Australian government employees are wasting taxpayer dollars doing it at the office.

Kim Williams, former head of News Limited, came out last year and slammed pirates (quite rightly) for downloading shows and movies illegally. Williams spruiked stats showing that "as much as 65 per cent of all material consumed via Bittorrent is downloaded illegally." Quite a number indeed, but what Kim overlooked was the potential solution for piracy.

Availability of content.

Our theory went that if content was available cross-platform at a reasonable price, piracy rates would drop dramatically. Look at Netflix as an example. Netflix offers all-you-can-eat movies and TV on a simple, cross-platform hub for just $US7 per month. Netflix found last year that wherever they set up. Netflix is so popular now that it accounts for one-third of all internet traffic in America. That's nothing to snuff at.

Combating piracy with the remedy of availability has seen some Aussie TV networks respond with some fantastic ideas.

The ABC made the excellent decision recently to put episodes of Doctor Who live on its iView platform one week before it aired on terrestrial TV so that people would still watch it legally rather than download it. People complained about the quality in which it was uploaded, but at least it was available. It turned out to be the ABC's most popular premiere ever on iView.

Foxtel channel FX started airing The Walking Dead within 33 hours of the show going live in the US last year to cut down on piracy, too.

Channel Ten is the network that deserves the most praise today, after announcing that it will broadcast the first episode of the eagerly awaited spy thriller Homeland online within 15 minutes of it airing on Showtime in the US. Amazing. That is how you solve piracy.

In Seven's defence, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premieres next week in a double "movie-length" episode. That means the first and second episodes will be shown back to back on October 2, which presumably means that Australia will catch up to the US and air episodes within 24 hours of each other. But the question will be if anyone will watch given that the episode will have been online for 22 hours already? All you need to do is look at the comments on our Avengers of S.H.I.E.L.D trailer post to realise that people are watching it early.

Seven can still take solace that they aren't the worst offender when it comes to relegating Australia into a content backwater. That illustrious title still, sadly, belongs to our friends at SF for Continuum-gate.

Change is happening, but not everyone is learning the hard-taught lessons of piracy.

WATCH MORE: Entertainment News


    Pretty good show

      sorta.... i like teh idea... but they should have steered clear of the "ironcrap 3" take on extremis.

      Better acting and production value than i expected, will be good to see where they take it.

        they wanted to tie it into the last Marvel movie that came out. i wonder if it will tie in mid season with Thor the dark world.

        I kind of like the tv shows take on extremis better. They're gonna run with it, turn it into their own thing obviously. Loving the centipede stuff. And LOVE Lola lol

      i beg to differ
      my wife who isnt a geek by any definition always watches sci fi shows with me

      but she had a reallllly hard time trying to follow the plot

      they tried WAY too hard trying to cram in gags and one liners and not enough time focusing on the superhero element

      she almost didnt get the reference to the sniper rifle shot at the end because they focused on so much other crap

    Seven's thinking will be if they promote it as a movie length premiere they will hope to attract more views. But really they are just hurting them selfs even more. They really need to get with it. Broadcast TV is on the way out if they keep going this way. Just give us what we want when we want and a lot of people will pay and stop pirating.

      I love how you idiots think you know more than TV executives. I'm sure torrenting numbers are bugger-all compared to the million-plus ratings shows like X Factor enjoy. TV execs understand that and also understand that those shows are basically pirate-proof, that's why they will spend up big on those and consign shows like Agents of SHIELD to whatever back-water timeslots are left over. Eventually they will stop bothering to pay for them altogether and you won't be able to watch them on FTA TV at all. IN the end, you get the free TV you deserve.

      I'd also question whether downloaded 720p is "beautiful" at all. I'd rather have uncompressed 576i any day. My PVR will record Agents of SHIELD whenever 7 decide to air it but I probably won't get around to watching it until after the whole series has finished, so I really don't care whether it's delayed by an hour, a day, a week or even a year.

        576i on my 720P tv looks shit house. The 720P stuff I download in TV shows looks better than what we get on the SD channels.

          Spot on, the torrents out there are generally better quality than what is being broadcasted thus the point why prostitute yourself to lower quality when you can gain access to better quality sooner. Also a point to raise is pricing, seriously there's a 30%-60% pricing difference on the US iTunes store compared to Australia, Iron Man 3 is $19.99 while in Australia $29.99.... And they wonder why we pirate, I'm guessing it's the convict heritage ;)

        Err all broadcast TV is HEAVILY compressed. Each broadcaster is only given so much band width and now they are jamming more and more channels on to the same bandwidth. Channels 7, 9 and 10 have just added a 2nd shopping channel, so they have just recently just dropped the bandwidth of each of their other channels to make room for the new one.

        Most main Australian SD channels are down to around 5Mb/s in MPEG2 these days, to compare with with uncompressed 576i SDI is 270Mb/s, uncompressed 1080i is 1.5Gb/s. So if the 720p download is taken off a US cable service(much higher bandwidths than australia) and then transcoded to MPEG4, the downloaded file will(depends on compression settings but most stuff is quite good) have on average a higher bitrate, therefore(but not always) looking better.

          Some TV is heavily compressed, Foxtel especially ,but the HD FTA channels - GEM, 7two and ONE - usually look great. But for some shows, like Wallander, you can't beat DVD/Blu-Ray.

        Yeah those FTA execs are so brilliant all their companies are bleeding you will tell us newspaper owners are business geniuses as well.

        Last edited 26/09/13 6:22 pm

          Which networks are bleeding money? I work at Nine and they've been hiring heaps lately. Six months ago there were only two of us rostered on on a Saturday or Sunday, now there are five. Ten just hired a bunch of new people to put their new daytime shows to air and all the networks are putting out more and better drama than they ever have previously. If piracy makes overseas programming less valuable, that can only be good for local content providers. Of course, ultimately that could mean that the tens of millions they pay the US networks for content will be channeled into new seasons of Winners & Losers and House Husbands. When that happens, those US shows will no longer be financially viable and the networks will stop making them. Like I said, you end up with the TV you deserve.

          If countering piracy directly is too hard, or hard at all, they just won't bother. You can say that all they have to do is put it on at 3am when it goes to air in the US but that won't work for them. Even putting it on a week earlier, in the middle of footy finals, won't work for them.

            Hiring cleaners to remove the dust over unused studio hardware doesn't count.

            *Better* drama...? If you think Wonderland, which is just a copy of No.96 from the 70's and which is quickly degenerating into just another version of Home and Away, better drama then we are indeed all doomed.

            This/you are the problem with FTA television. You think the consumer should mold their expectations to fit the delivery mediums strategy. That's not how business works, and in an ever increasing information society where people are used to getting the content they want, when they want it, the FTA model is falling apart. If television doesn't diversify and adapt to the consumers demands, the consumers will bypass the medium to get the content themselves. If the TV companies stop funding the shows, this will create a massive area for other companies to come in, buy the rights at a cheaper price, and develop and publish this stuff in the way the consumers want (ie. online on demand). So in my opinion, this is good. Hope this happens. FTA television deserves anything it gets if it can't adapt.

        A good portion of the reason I pirate the shows I really enjoy is because they're so heavily compressed on FTA TV. Give me the 720p torrent! Especially with shows like Top Gear or HBO series which have high production value.

    I've seen Ten's "Streaming" during the F1 as it drops in and out between 480p and 240p (can't even read the text on the screen at that point)

    I think I'll stick to my server at home, automatically downloading homeland in 720p and watch it at my own convenience when I get home.

      how do you set up auto downloads? I've tried a few times and never got it to work properly

        I know you can use sickbeard to do it, I found it more of a pain than it was worth (end up having to re-download propers etc), but as I have 100mb cable I'm never waiting too long for my downloads even if I have to initiate it myself.

          Sickbeard automatically re-downloads propers.

        Use utorrent and set some tight rss rules. It can take some fiddling and trial and error, but when it works, it works well.

          lol torrents. For amateurs.

          Definitely use SickBeard with something like SABnzb and pay for an SSL service as well (Astraweb etc). Encrypted downloads from non-content-hosting news providers > torrents.

            Its magic, got the same setup. Pretty much set and forget,

            Lol paying for piracy. Amateurs.

              Not paying for it at all. My ssl connections are used primarily for other things. Nzb's are just an addition. It ok if you don't understand technology that well kid. You can admit it.

        Search "sick beard".

    It's good to see Ten be smart about the issue; hopefully this starts to happen more often.
    There's a reason Kim Dotcom got over 5.500 retweets for this tweet:

    I don't think this article is entirely giving enough weight to how much networks HAVE learned in the past couple of years. More needs to be made of the fact that Ten is broadcasting not just Homeland, but also Elementary only two or three days after the US premiere. After the movie length episode, Seven will presumably air every other Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode within hours of the US screening each episode. Even GO! is screening Survivor: Blood vs Water only hours after the US screening, and I know for a fact that stopped a couple of my mates downloading it off the net (they're obsessed, what can I say?). They're learning, but it's obviously slow, pricey going.

    The article overlooks one major issue. Even if shows are fast tracked and appear on our screens within hours of airing in the US, come the end of November, it will all come to a grinding halt until February next year. Perhaps it's true that less people watch TV over summer (in my case I watch more), but just about everyone has the ability to record shows now. It's time the local TV industry dumped their archaic ratings system and got with the times. It's not the 1950's any more.

    It seems to me one of the biggest lessons that companies like Foxtel aren't learning is that gouging the Australian public is not the way to build business and reduce pirating. I cut the cable over 2 years ago and am still waiting for good content at the right price. When we get the same value for money and roughly the same timing as the U.S. I will gladly hand over my money.

    I'll certainly vouch for netflix reducing piracy. I've had it for two months ( thanks Hola ) and my piracy has dropped by about 80%.

      I second that.

      I only recently started using Hola to unblock Netflix and I can absolutely see why it reduces piracy. Going to look into Hulu soon as well which seems very good as well. I wonder how much piracy would drop if every aussie had access to those 2 services? A hell of a lot I bet.....

      Hulu just got BBC international too, which dropped my piracy even further.

    It's not just about the viewing delay, I can't stand the constant advertising. I can understand the free to air networks have to pay for it somehow but it's a joke that foxtel is double dipping, you pay for the service and get to waste half your life watching ads.

      I wish some politicians would grow some balls and introduce something like the US where the ads aren't allowed to be louder than the TV show. I watch a lot of Hulu, and to be honest I actually don't mind watching ads when they're not all fkn YELLING AT ME louder than the show I want to watch.

    even if they aired it the same time as US, piracy is still a better options because ads are incredibly annoying.

    interrupting a show or movie every 10 mins for some cheap and irritating ads destroys any kind of mood or emotion the show is trying to create. Ads mid show or mid movie is just unacceptable

      Unfortunately ads are what pay the bills. But for those of us (i'm assuming you're like me) that are susceptible to TV advertising, all I can say is.... timeshift for succeed!!!

      If I could watch full HD shows at my convenience for free, I would gladly sit through 1 or 2 min of ads at the start of an episode.
      interruptions in the middle are annoying i agree.

      you do realise that in the US there are ads too right? Its just that the torrent uploaders cut them out.

    Australian TV networks still have not learned the most important lesson. We are the customers, we determine how and when we engage with them, failure to listen to customers has only one eventual outcome, we go elsewhere.

      They don't seem to understand that watching the show on the day its released, pretty much on demand, without any advertisements is how we want our content. I'd pay for it if I could do it without waiting for the torrent to download, and just have to turn my TV on, hit play and its their, ready for me

        Ditto and a half. Currently the only thing that gets close to that is using Torrents and RSS feeds to auto-download the stuff...

      You're not the customer, the ads are the customer. If you aren't paying for it, you're the product.

    It certainly won't be broadcast locally in 'beautiful 720p' - and that is a reason many of the tech savvy people that are downloading these shows, who wants to see the 480P TV broadcast on a 50 inch plus panel?

    That is a point nobody ever seems to bring up, the broadcast quality in Australia is pathetic.

    I think 7 have been pretty good with this.

    Only have to wait a week and they play the 2nd episode straight after, so its pretty much straight from the US.

    Can't blame them for using the Grand Final week to pump up interest in the show, hopefully it broadens the fan base an enable it to stay on prime time

    I think the networks are better with fast tracking, certainly better than they have ever been. Breaking Bad is what ... four, five hours behind? Yet why is it still the most pirated show in the world, with Australia still leading the charge still? It's price, price and price.

    Cable television in Australia sucks. We get about 100 channels, compared to the States which for similar pricing gets something like 300 channels. They have much lower tiers of pricing for entry too, granted if you cut down on the channel access, but it'll still equal or be more than Australia's premium packages. All in all, the US has 70%+ subscribed to cable, this is in relation to Australia's 30% because of this. Australia needs a better cable company leading the charge or just more competition. Until then ... piracy will always be an issue, and blame Foxtel.

    One other thing too I've noticed, even the TV stations that advertise a show as "fast tracked from the US" are still sucking. In my opinion, airing something 3 days later is not "fast tracked". If it takes me 15 minutes to Torrent a 45 minute show in 720p on my crappy slowband, surely the TV stations can air a show the same night after it airs in the US. I know it's not a technical issue, but a bureaucratic one. Some day they will get their shit together I suppose.

      No kidding. They have this stuff in advance, they have the distribution networks in place, they have the contacts from the industry... there's NO reason they can't compete with backyard homebrew cut-and-paste jobs to the internet.

      Well, there's one reason... US cultural primacy? It really does boggle the mind that this is still a factor. It's like swimming in shark infested waters and complaining that you're getting eaten when all you need to do is CLIMB OUT OF THE WATER ONTO THE FUCKING BOAT. But nooooo, they have some sort of problem with paying to get on the boat or some disagreement with the boat's captain or whatever bullshit excuse is keeping them swimming in shark-infested waters.

      It's painful to watch.

        haha your metaphor lost me.

          Heh. Oh. Well... the shark-infested waters are the market/internet. Pirates are the sharks. The swimmer is the Oz TV networks. The boat-captain is US TV networks. The boat is (currently) US distribution.

    ill second Hola, gave me access to netflix and Hulu, so happy

    Even though I will have seen the first episode before Wednesday, I will still watch it when it comes on. Though I much rather see it in HD, with no watermark and limited ad breaks.

      do you still notice the watermark? I was just thinking the other day, I don't even notice them anymore.

        I hate the watermarks and the half screen adds for other programs. SF is the worst ever EVER for it, they move and take up half the screen it is so distracting that I would never pay for that channel.

          Even the half screen ads I don't notice anymore, if I'm engrossed in a show I am completely oblivious to it. It's the same as a really hate the look of overhead power lines but when walking around streets that have them I don't give it a second thought.

    In the UK free to air TV shows even have a pay option so you don't have to wait a whole week for the next episode, Whitechapel Season 4 episode 4 was suppose to come on in UK next week sometime but then if you pay £2.50 you can see the next episode now. The same in America with Cinematic releases that also release the same show on Pay per view on the same day as the cinematic release.

    We are just so behind time when it comes to consumer choices.
    If someone is willing to pay, the studios in America and UK are happy to put you first. Here, no one cares even if you are happy to pay.

    For me, I don't really care about when it's first broadcast (as I watch shows after the fact anyway. I'm like the XKCD guy who plays games on a 5 year lag), but I do like to watch several shows in a row, so waiting a week to see the next episode is frustrating.

    In addition, it's the advertisements. Went to my parents' place for dinner the other week, and we watched Futurama (Jurassic Bark. Right in the feels, man). The flow was ruined by the amount of ad breaks, and they were all bright, bubbly ads that wanted to make my home and garbage smell better.

    Excuse me people, Fry's dog waiting for him until he died. Take your Ambi-pur crap elsewhere.

      IMO That's the best episode of Futurama ever. It brought a tear to my eye the first time I saw it.

      High-five for being five-year delay gamer, whole season watching bro!

    I am more gobsmacked at the time they are putting it on why not put in the prime 830 slot?seriously do they not realise that some of us have kids to put in the dishwasher and dishes to bath?

    They really are shooting themselves in the foot by not providing a more reliable service than the pirates do.

    Combating piracy is very simple. There are some core qualities that consumers look for: convenience, reliability, price, and quality. People have different priorities for balancing those factors, and while 'free' might be a factor that legimitacy can never beat the pirates on, legit purchases SHOULD be able to win in the other areas to reduce the weighting that price has.

    Example of doing it right:
    Look at Steam. Better convenience, reliability, and quality in games compared to pirated torrents means that the price difference is the only factor that remains, and regular Steam sales mean that the price difference is so negligible to many folks that they now buy legitimately instead of pirating.
    Success! You're doing it right!

    Now let's go look at movies and TV shows. Jerking people around on convenience, reliability and quality AND price? And waah, waah, loads of people are pirating! No. Fucking. Wonder.

    Example of doing it wrong:
    Let's look at Foxtel: Ad-free? Nope. AND you pay for it. So it's basically WORSE than even free to air. Free to air has ads, but at least you don't pay a subscription fee for the fucking privilege of watching them. You can skip ahead of the ads on Foxtel if you pre-recorded? You can do that if you HDD record/stream your free to air, too. You don't even have to bother with skipping AT ALL if you pirate. And jerking people around on their recording with unreliable start/finish times to keep them off different channels? Pure dick move, and makes the reliability and convenience of your programming worse than pirating the show.

    Yo, network fucks. You want to be MORE convenient and reliable than the people offering your shit for free, not LESS convenient and reliable.

    THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Why do these assholes not get it? It's so obvious to any pundit or layman, that it boggles the mind that people actually INVESTED in the industry can't see it. What's the factor at play, here? What am I not seeing that's keeping these industry folks making boneheaded moronic moves?

      I'd like to see something a la Crunchyroll.
      Programs released on a weekly schedule, available from SD to HD, and payable via an optional monthly subscription.
      I.E. If you just sign up, you can still watch the previous week's episode, but if you're willing to pay, you get that week's episode.

      And jerking people around on their recording with unreliable start/finish times to keep them off different channels?

      This pissed me off more than anything in the 90's... I'd configure the VCR to tape a show so I could re-watch / skip the ads... And you'd program it 10 minutes before the start time, and 10 minutes after the start time... AND STILL FREAKING MISS THE ENDING!

      I got the internet in the early 2000's, haven't stopped pirating since... The only thing I recently watched on TV was Doctor Who, because it was a Sunday night, right as it was starting on ABC, and I'd completely forgotten to download it... So I gladly watched it on ABC ad free (which was glorious, except for the fact it wasn't in HD). If it had been something on any network show I would have gone and downloaded it, because I'd rather wait 20 minutes to download it than endure your garbage ads for The Bachelor's Biggest Loser and Australia's got dancing with the stars. Is it just me, or will TV networks play an ad for a show/product now, and immediately play a cut down version of the same ad?

      I wanted to post but then I saw everything right here.

    For me it all comes down to the path of least resistance. I haven't downloaded an MP3 since I started using Spotify many months ago. I even pay the $12 per month for a premium account. It's more difficult to download a torrent of an album than it is to just queue it up on Spotify. If TV (and film) were available this way I'd be the first on board.

    Another question is why show it as a "movie length" premiere when the original broadcast is 2 separate episodes? Does Channel 7 think it knows better how to screen the show.

    Just glad they have stopped showing "finales" when they are not ...or have they?

    Also the mind boggles on the millions of dollars spent on advertising the fact that we now get TV shows several hours after the US instead of days, weeks, months, or years.

    Way to go, advertising the fact that in an age of instant global communication they are now merely 'inadequate' instead of 'utterly irrelevant'. And then to spend millions like... like they're proud of this inadequacy? I mean, yes - credit for improvement, but when you're up against pirates or IP-unblocked streaming direct, you're not competing against your own former failings, you're competing against the now. And losing.

    The mindset is so far behind the race it's starting after the competition has already won. These absolute tools still think they're competing with other shows in competing timeslots. No... you're competing with damn-near-instant, free, on-demand access.

    Oblivious: ob·liv·i·ous
    1. Not aware of or not concerned about what is happening around one.
    2. 50+ yr old white male executives who don't know how to use the internet.

      Make Netflix available in Australia, and maybe I'll start paying for stuff.

    And it's not even going to be broadcast in HD.


    What the holy hell are they thinking?

    Also, same for HIMYM on Seven. What a joke.

      On the subject of HIMYM on 7, first show i have illegally downloaded due the idiot programmers at channel 7 deciding to only show 2/3rds of the season then take a 4 month break before showing the final few episodes.

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