LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has emerged as the world’s biggest market for downloading pirated TV, driven by tech-savvy fans who are unwilling to wait for popular U.S. shows such as “Desperate Housewives.”
Britain’s status as a TV downloading hotspot, revealed in a study by UK technology consultancy Envisional on Thursday, could pose problems for UK broadcaster BSkyB, which is counting on high-profile U.S. shows such as “24” to draw new subscribers to its satellite TV service.
According to Envisional, Britain accounts for about one-fifth of TV downloads through file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent and eDonkey, more than any other country, followed by Australia and the United States.
“Because there’s such a demand for U.S. TV, the UK is going to be the main downloader,” said Envisional research consultant David Price.
Popular U.S. television shows such as “The West Wing,” “The Sopranos” and “Friends” usually air in Britain months after they are broadcast stateside. For impatient fans, the Internet offers bootleg, advertisement-free programs that can be downloaded in a few hours over a high-speed connection.
Episodes of the espionage drama “24” show up on the popular file-trading network BitTorrent within minutes after they air in the U.S., according to Envisional, and a typical episode is downloaded by about 100,000 users.
The company said that “24” is the most pirated show online, with “The Simpsons,” “The OC” and a host of sci-fi programs including “Stargate SG-1” and “Enterprise” also popular.