CBS/Time Warner dispute causes sharp rise in TV piracy

As a direct result of the ongoing Time Warner Cable/CBS retransmission dispute (Time Warner has pulled CBS programming from its lineup after failing to reach a deal), the percentage of unauthorized downloads of the network’s most popular shows has surged among subscribers affected by the dispute.

Piracy rates of “Under The Dome,” a popular CBS show, shot up 34 percent over the previous weekend, while official ratings for the show dropped, reported "TorrentFreak," a weblog devoted to covering BitTorrent, the popular file-sharing site.

Illegal use of content, "The Verge" reported, continues to be a major thorn in the side of rights-holders as Internet users take to BitTorrent and other file-sharing services to download TV shows immediately after they have aired.

One of the main motivations for people to download and stream TV shows from unauthorized sources, "TorrentFreak" said, is availability.

“If fans can’t get a show through legal channels, they often turn to pirated alternatives,” the report said.

The site monitored BitTorrent downloads of "Under the Dome," which it said is the most-pirated TV show at this time. The data from these two samples show that in Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Pittsburgh, more people downloaded the show at higher rates than usual.

It found that 10.9 percent of downloads came from the blackout regions for the previous week’s episode, and increased to 14.6 percent for last Monday’s episode, a 34 percent increase. In New York City, one of the largest affected markets, the relative piracy rate more than doubled from 1.3 percent of all U.S. downloads to 3 percent for the episode that aired after the blackout.

More data is needed, "TorrentFreak" said, for accurate measurement tracking of a wider range of CBS programming to determine whether or not the piracy levels affect shows without such high popularity. That, of course, depends upon how long the blackout goes on.

“While one should always be careful of drawing strong conclusions from city-based data, especially when we don’t know how many downloaders are Time Warner Cable subscribers, these initial results do suggest that the blackout resulted in a local piracy surge,” the site said.

At the same time that piracy spiked, the official CBS ratings went down. On last Monday, "Under The Dome" reached its season low ranking, with only 10.49 million viewers compared to 11.41 million the week before.