Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New eight-day delay policy for Hulu viewing of Fox shows causes spike in piracy

About a week ago, Fox began a new policy: an eight-day delay before its shows could be accessed for free on Hulu. That policy change has led to a surge in piracy among Fox shows, based on a sampling taken by BitTorrent news site TorrentFreak.

The change started a week ago Monday. Fox began delaying the availability of new episodes on Hulu and Fox.com for 8 days, hoping to boost live viewers (Fox, haven't you heard about DVRs?) with a resulting hike in their deals with cable and satellite distributors.

MacMall.com Hot New Apple ComputersGranted, this isn't the best time to track these sorts of things, as it's the doldrums of the summer rerun season with isolated shows having new episodes, but it's when Fox chose to make the move, so in order to judge the move right when it started, TorrentFreak decided to track two Fox shows (Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef) on BitTorrent.

During the first 5 days of the new policy, TF compared the number of downloads from the U.S. for the latest episode to an average of the prior three episodes. MasterChef downloads increased 189 percent. Hell's Kitchen rose 114 percent. MasterChef may have seen a larger spike than Hell's Kitchen since its episode was the show's season finale.

As is often the case with a highly desired BitTorrent upload, downloaders were effusive in their thanks. WithurShield wrote, “You so rock and allowed me to keep my promise to my son. I promised if he cleaned for one hour he could watch Hell’s Kitchen with me. He was excited and then disappointed that we couldn’t watch it on Hulu or Fox.com.”

BareNecessities.comminniemica said, “Thanks a lot for uploading these, Hulu used to be my go-to but alas, they have failed me.”

Oof. What's interesting is that some of these viewers had apparently been relying on Hulu instead of a DVR (or even a VCR), timeshifting using using Hulu instead of a recording device.

We're aware of some folks who have completely dumped their cable, opting only for Hulu or Netflix. This move by Fox isn't going to stop people from timeshifting, but it may mean more DVR sales.

One commenter on Hulu said, “I’m going to go buy a DVR or dust off my VCR and I will be recording my tv shows from now on.”

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