SYDNEY — Despite moves offering Oz fans fast access to American shows such as day-and-date airing and official websites, a report released last week has concluded that television piracy is thriving Down Under, with one in five Aussies having watched or purchased a pirated pic or TV skein.
The study found that Aussies are the second-largest offenders when it comes to piracy. The figure of 15.6% is just behind Blighty (18.5%) but well ahead of the U.S. (7.3%). Aussies topped the list when it came to the amount of pirates per capita.
U.S. TV skeins are one of the main targets, with hits such as “Californication,” “Heroes” and “The Mentalist” (with local star Simon Baker) in the sights of the downloaders.
Illegal downloading is seen as a boon for local TV fans who have historically had to wait months to get Stateside fare, but this has changed in the past few years with international hits now airing virtually day-and-date.
Seven Network, a pioneer in fast-tracking American skeins, believes the strategy helps ease piracy, though levels continue to rise.
“Television is successful because it reflects consumer demands, and fast-tracking of some programs from the United States to counter any impact from downloading is one strategy,” says Seven’s Simon Francis.
But, he adds, the answer also lies in creating local content.
“Our success is built on Australian programs that Australians want to watch,” Francis says. “The bonus is that we control our own destiny, and the majority of our schedule is download-proof (since the local shows won’t have aired anywhere else previously). We’re also embracing video online, which forms a key part of our plans to build beyond broadcast television.”
Hit local skeins include cop drama “City Homicide” and family drama “Packed to the Rafters.”
All the webs now have a wide range of product available for legal download from their official websites and the recent introduction of iTunes — and its inclusion of a range of Disney/ABC product — to Oz means there are more legal options for downloaded content than ever before.
That said, overall piracy has more than trebled in the past eight years, with film piracy estimated to cost the industry A$230 million ($153 million) per year. In addition the report says TV downloading is responsible for an average 11% decrease in viewershipfor television shows.
Seven seems unperturbed however, saying the key issue is more about how content is viewed.
“Broadcast television continues to dominate the media landscape, but technology is rapidly changing how consumers engage with programs,” Francis says.