U.S., European TV Networks Fight Piracy
SUSAN STONE: Unidentified Woman: (Singing) (French spoken)
(SOUNDBITE OF "HEROES" THEME SONG)
STONE: But while the response from viewers was good, something was missing, says TF1's Pascal Lechevallier.
PASCAL LECHEVALLIER: At this time, we saw that we lose probably one million viewers on TF1 because of piracy.
STONE: Tech savvy TV fans were using France's high-speed broadband Internet connections to illegally download episodes of "Heroes," subtitle them, and put them back on the Web. Visit any peer-to-peer downloading site and you'll quickly find "Heroes" and other popular American shows subtitled in languages from Swedish to Spanish, just hours or days after they've been on American TV but months before they'll be seen on the small screen in Europe - a delay largely caused by the time needed for language dubbing. So European broadcasters like TF1 are starting to take action by making deals with U.S. networks for online video-on-demand.
LECHEVALLIER: The NBC team worked two days before broadcast on NBC to include subtitles in the episode, and we receive it Sunday afternoon and we push the content in the night just after the broadcasting in USA.
STONE: Arash Amel, senior analyst at the media research company Screen Digest in London, says that in light of competition from illegal downloading and legal services like YouTube and iTunes, the television industry has a lot of catching up to do.
ARASH AMEL: Television is only coming to this now. Music industry was here with Napster seven years ago, and they are paying the price for having moved very late. And as we can see, their revenues are dropping off the cliff.
STONE: Pirjo Airaksinen, programming director for Channel Four Finland, spearheaded an online video-on-demand deal with Disney/ABC to stream top shows "Desperate Housewives," "Ugly Betty," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Lost."
PIRJO AIRAKSINEN: I think it's important to be on every technical platform. Also, it's important to fight against piracy. If there's a legal means of acquiring and watching shows that are also delivered with good quality, I think that prevents piracy.
STONE: But these new approaches still require payment from consumers, and that can be a problem. After all, European TV watchers can find their American favorites online for free. Why should they pay to watch them on the Web? Analyst Arash Amel doesn't think they will.
AMEL: Where you see huge usage, it's where content is available for free. Now, the key is how do you monetize free, and the answer always comes back to advertising.
STONE: For NPR News, I'm Susan Stone.
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