BBC News is reporting that the UK is the largest audience for pirated TV programs available on the Internet. Many mainstream programs such as 24, Six Feet Under, and The Simpsons air weeks or months before the series reach the UK, and it seems evident that people aren't willing to wait to see them.
It is estimated that a typical episode of 24 is downloaded by about 100,000 people globally, with up to 20,000 of those being in the UK. It has been reported that an episode can be available online within an hour and 20 minutes of being shown, and as such could potentially be downloaded and watched before it is aired on the west coast of the US.
The BBC itself ran a trial last year of a so called "Interactive Media Player (iMP)" based on a p2p model that allowed users to download TV programs for up to eight days after they had been shown. A more extensive trial is expected later in the year.
Could this then be the future of television? Rather than companies like NTL bundling Internet access with their television products, we may see them providing television services using their Internet access products. Using technologies such as multicasting, this could prove highly successful in reducing bandwidth strain on their networks, if trends continue. Indeed companies like HomeChoice already allow you to watch TV using VDSL which operates over a BT phone line. Perhaps they are missing an opportunity by not getting on to the US networks for access to air their programs at the same time as they are being shown in the US. It seems the only sure fire way to reduce TV piracy.
One advantage could be removal of the large TV set in corner as it's currently known, and replacing it with a computer screen that allows you to watch TV, send e-mail, surf the Net and talk to your friends on Instant Messenger, all at the same time -- a true interactive television.
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