Foreign consumers want to see US shows on the night they are broadcast in America. Case in point: the huge number of international illegal downloads of The Breaking Bad Finale.

According to TorrentFreak, more than 500,000 illegal downloads took place in the first 12-hours after an initial illegal copy of the finale became available. The distribution of these illegal downloads are scattered around the world: 18 percent in Australia, 14.5 percent in the U.S., 9.3 in Britain, 5.7 in India, and 5.1 in Canada. When no legal means of viewing are available, consumers pirate. Why not give foreign consumers what they are demanding and derive a profit from doing so?

The solution to foreign TV piracy is simple. Networks should make shows available online for foreign audiences, charging a reasonable fee per episode on iTunes or via instant digital syndication on SVOD service like Netflix or Amazon Instant.

Instant international digital syndication—International cross-platform distribution that coincides with domestic live-TV broadcast—provides an avenue not only to reduce piracy, but also to monetize viewing of commonly pirated TV shows. Foreign distribution should not give studios pause as they will benefit in the immediacy from licensing or rental fees. In the long term, creating a digital audience in a foreign market for a show may increase syndication value on foreign networks.

AMC made each episode of Breaking Bad available to watch on Netflix UK immediately after the US live-broadcast. Accordingly, piracy numbers in the UK were lower than other foreign markets like Australia.

netflix on windowsBut some consumers still chose to illegally pirate the show even when available via legitimate means. This lingering piracy may spring from a lack education and awareness amongst viewers that their actions are actually illegal.

In accordance, the UK Industry Trust, a film and TV industry funded education body, plans to teach Internet users about piracy. According to the Trust’s research, 40 percent of TV pirates are not aware that the sites they have been lead to by popular search engines like Google or Yahoo! are illegal. The Trust hopes to alter habitual behaviors of illegal consumption and inspire these users to consume TV via legal providers.

Providing legal means for foreign viewers to watch a TV show after it airs in the domestic market and educating consumers about piracy would not only reduce the number of illegal downloads, but generate a new distribution window that would undoubtedly be profitable.

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About Author

Lauren Kreiser, J.D. is a law clerk with the Pierce Law Group in Beverly Hills, CA focusing on entertainment law with an emphasis on film and television

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