Entertainment industry? Heads in sand? Still? Surely not.

Want to know the most illegally downloaded TV show of 2008? It was Lost with 5.73-million downloads per episode, which across its four seasons makes for an astonishing number. Heroes and Prison Break complete a blockbuster top three, but it’s the show at number 6 on the pirate list that is most surprising.

Entertainment industry? Heads in sand? Still? Surely not.

Stargate

Stargate Atlantis is rubbish. This is a fact. This one single photo should tell you just how rubbish it is, but if it doesn’t, well, let me tell you: It’s rubbish. Really.

But the real eye-opener is not that people like it, it’s that in 2008 more people downloaded each episode from torrent sites worldwide than watched it on TV in America. While the big shows mentioned above still roped in vastly more TV viewers than downloaders, Stargate Atlantis tipped over the edge.

Why this show? Well, by the look of the various fan sites and forums out there it’s globally popular, but that popularity isn’t necessarily respected by the publishers and networks. Complaints come from New Zealand, Europe, even as close to the US as Canada; there’s a long wait between the show airing in the US and making its way abroad, so it’s inevitable that these fans will look elsewhere for their fix.

The primary reason most TV downloaders do so is not to steal or to fight back at the big corporations, it’s simply that they want to watch a TV show right now and downloading it is usually the easiest way. And it’s an argument I’m increasingly coming round to.

You’ve followed a show for years, complete with intrusive adverts, yet you’re still expected to wait months for it to reach these shores after it’s finished in the US. It’s not only a little insulting, it’s also incredibly frustrating, particularly as spoilers instantly fill the internet for you to avoid as you count down the months till you can watch it legally.

It’s the same with region-locked DVDs. The studios try to control the release across multiple territories to coincide with charm offensives in each region in turn, but the moment the first territory gets it and starts raving about it (usually the US) the rest of the world gets annoyed and just downloads it. And why shouldn’t they?

A few shows have seen the light and changed schedules – 24, Prison Break and several other big names now air over here in close approximation to the US – but as long as others don’t, the industry can have few complaints when people veer towards the path of least resistance: the good old internet, destroyer of all things traditional.

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