By Jared Newman | Monday, August 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm
When Fox announced that it would withhold its TV shows from Hulu and its own website until eight days after their original air date, a lot of people assumed that piracy would increase as a result. Now, TorrentFreak claims to have proof.
The site tracked BitTorrent downloads for two Fox shows — Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef — over the last week, when the delay began. Sure enough, during the first five days, downloads of the latest Hell’s Kitchen episode rose by 114 percent compared to the previous three episodes. Downloads of MasterChef spiked by 189 percent, with the season’s finale likely accounting for higher demand on BitTorrent.
TorrentFreak also took note of some of the angry comments on Hulu, many of them wrongly directed at Hulu rather than Fox: “What I don’t like is up until now I have been able to watch the episode of Hell’s Kitchen the day after it airs and all of a sudden they now want me to pay for it?” one commenter writes.
Unless Fox executives are really, really dense, they had to see this coming. My guess is that an uptick in piracy was expected, but in the long run, Fox is hoping that people will feel inconvenienced enough by the delay to hang onto their cable subscriptions — or sign up for Hulu Plus. Fox is openly concerned about cord-cutting, and delaying shows by eight days is meant to discourage people from relying on free streaming.
In other words, it’s about reinforcing the idea that if you want Fox’s content in a timely manner, you’re going to have to pay for it. TorrentFreak’s findings don’t necessarily mean that Fox’s approach is doomed, but they are a reminder that workarounds are always available.