Heroes the most pirated show of 2009

Article here: http://www.tv.com/heroes-is-the-most-pirated-show-of-2009/story/20493.html

It seems most of the downloading occurs abroad. It’s interesting though, that the (undisclosed) most popular episode got over 6,580,000 downloads, “over half a million more than the show’s average TV audience.”

The top ten most dl’d shows:

Personally, I think Heroes has gotten pretty sleepy lately. It’s not on my “must watch right away” list anymore.

I am not surprised that Heroes is the most pirated shows for a few reasons, but especially because Heroes is, more than any other show I can think of, a viral show. The producers went to great lengths to create an online universe for fans - should they really be surprised when all of a sudden the internet audience starts watching the show exclusively on the internet? (Lost, as I understand it, also has a large viral component because the design of the show encourages fans to “connect the dots” and this idea has lead to the creation of a number of internet shows devoted to doing just that).

It is perhaps ironic, then, that Heroes was abuzz with cancellation rumours this year due to low television ratings - as Levdrakon’s statistics imply, the viewership for Heroes is lower but not drastically lower than it was in its first and second seasons (14 million in the first season on average and 13 million in the second season on average- source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_(TV_series)). However, it is clear that much of that viewership is not coming through television but rather the internet, and likely many of those internet fans are overseas, too.

My own thoughts are that television networks need to find a better way to reach their consumers over the internet - which can be a very good opportunity for more ad revenue too.

It would also probably help if the writers were able to recapture the magic of the first season! Seriously now, I am a fan but even I have to admit that the quality of the narrative suffered since the first season ended: the story arcs during seasons 2 and 3 were repetitive, the characters stopped developing for the most part, and the two best forms of Heros episodes (the “recap” episode and the “one character only” episode) was lost at the wayside. The current season has shown an effort to fix these problems (already had a “recap” episode, HRG getting a love interest is interesting character development, and the Samuel plot line has me tuning in).

It’s my opinion that the internet has probably destroyed more wealth than it has created. Articles like the above do nothing to change that.

"My own thoughts are that television networks need to find a better way to reach their consumers over the internet - which can be a very good opportunity for more ad revenue too. "

Except that the internet isn’t a very good advertising medium. Google AdWords is about the only online advertising concept that has generated significant revenues, however, the rest of the ads that you see are shockingly ineffective (when was the last time anybody reading this has clicked on a popup/banner ad, this click culminating in a sale?) As we all do, the experienced internet user trains themselves not even to see the ads, especially on sites they regularly visit. I was just on CNN.com prior to this and I don’t recall a single ad that is on the site… though there were plenty. However, I watched King of Queens* last night and I do recall a new funny Geico commercial.

When you watch a Hulu show and see that a 30-minute show that was supported by, say, 15 commercials per half hour (assuming 3 breaks with 5 commercials apiece) is now supported by 4 commercials… well, it’s obvious that advertisers don’t believe that the internet broadcast model is “a very good opportunity for more… revenue”.

*Not something I usually do, but I was visiting family and don’t like saying “God, this show SUCKS!”

I don’t believe bitorrenting shows adversely affects anyone’s wealth. The TV industry just hasn’t figured out how to adapt to 21st century media consumption habits, and would rather kick and fight and scream everyone back into last century habits. I’m sure that will work out wonderfully for them.

Also, there’s the issue of leaking preairs to the internet. Viral-on-purpose, or “disgruntled employee?” I think the TV industry is taking advantage of downloading to the extent they can.

It’s possible that scheduling of the Heroes episodes contributes to torrenting the episodes. I know that on my TiVo, there were two other shows at the same time, with higher priority. I had to use an OTA antenna and a home DVR to get the episodes. When there was poor reception, I downloaded a couple episodes, too.


When I wrote that I saw more opportunity for ad revenue, I meant for the networks or the internet sites (which in turn would pay the networks. the legal websites anyway). But you raise a very interesting issue about internet ads, and I hope that you don’t mind receiving some of these initial thoughts I had after reading your post.

For starters, I agree that traditional internet advertisements are mostly ineffective for all the reasons that you mentioned. Few people were clicking on the banners.

However, in the past few years we have seen the rise of a new kind of internet ad; they have popped up on, say, facebook and google. Google keeps track of what a user searches for, and facebook (and especially facebook applications) keeps track of everything a member may do on that site; both sites then have algorithms programmed to deliver ads to users based on your personal characteristics. I may be wrong on the details of internet collection but either way the system works (I am constantly shocked at how often I see banners on my gmail account that actually promote products/services that I am actually interest in… I don’t click on them everyday, mind you, but I will admit that I sometimes do click on them). However privacy laws may work, I realize that I am nonetheless being targeted by the very products or services that appear to be appropriate for me. If they are doing that right, then they have solved a large problem with television ads.

As we know, the problem with television advertising is that the ads reach a very large audience (10 million viewers, for example) but not necessarily a very large segment of the intended target audience (females aged 18-25, for example). Advertising over the internet using Google’s method, for example, allows advertisers to get right to their target audience. Whether or not that target audience member trains him/herself not to click on the banner is not much practically different than whether the television audiences member trains him/herself to change the channel at commercials.

I am not an engineer, but is it possible that sometime in the not too distant future sites like Hulu will be able to target ads for their viewers? If so, I think that advertisers would be very interested in such an idea.

Heroes is free to watch on the networks website, why would it be pirated?

Heroes has lost a significant percentage (up to 1/2) of its viewing audience to illegal downloading and you don’t think that adversely affects advertising revenue generated?

Serious? You think a show that has 12 million viewers will charge the same ad rates (all other things being equal) as a show that has 6 million?

Not TV related, but here’s an article about newspaper classified ads. Adjusted for inflation, the newspaper classified ad sections are generating as much revenue as they did… in 1965. As far as internet advertising is concerned, let me quote:

2008 newspaper online ad sales were $3.1 billion. Print ad revenues were $36 billion, down from $61 billion in 2000. So, just in 2009 alone, the newspapers have lost a potential $25 billion in print revenue to generate $3 billion in online revenue. Total newspaper print revenue lost since 2000 is approx. $104 billion. No wonder they’re dying.

And it’s not just classifieds. TOTAL internet advertising in 2009 amounted to $22 billion dollars, which is less than the amount of potential classified ad revenue lost by the newspapers.

As I’ve said - IMHO, the internet has destroyed more wealth than it has generated. This wouldn’t have been true in 2000, but I think the case could be made today, in 2010.

Because they are blocking the non-american audience. Smart, huh?

And to me it isn’t strange that non-murricans download the most. They don’t get to watch it on TV until a year later. Now, if the SDMB is discussing the last episode of House, I want to be able to join in.

Most of the downloads are outside the US, where you can’t watch the videos from the US site. Some UK shows are also available for free viewing on their websites, but not from the US.

Also, video streaming technology pretty much still sucks. I can’t watch Hulu, for instance.

ETA: I do apologize if the first two lines of the above post sounded snarky.

I’m pretty sure that without internet downloads, the show’s viewership would just be 6 million, period.


There’s no citation on the linked article that the majority are non-Americans. There’s speculation, but no concrete figures.

If you read the comments, many of the people talking state that they download because they don’t want to wait until the shows are broadcast in their countries. So they decide to steal the show, then are surprised when the thing is cancelled because the show cannot generate enough legitimate advertising revenue to make up for the audience lost to illegitimate downloading of content.

Prove it.

No, but that article links to the original source which states

It’s easy enough for tracker sites to monitor IP traffic.

People who download either can’t be bothered to watch it on TV, or basically CAN’T watch it on TV.

The only thing I’m surprised at is that the media folks have been whining about their stuff getting stolen for FIFTEEN FUCKING YEARS without doing anything about it.

They should have realised by now it’s not going away. You can’t make people NOT get stuff online. So provide an alternative that DOES get you money, instead of blocking most of the world’s population from Hulu.

And another thing that often gets overlooked: People who download illegally actually buy more legitimate products than people who don’t. Cite. You remember Futurama getting canceled, and then being rebooted since DVD sales went through the roof? The industry needs to get a fucking clue. There’s still money to be made on the people, but NOT in the eighties way they’re trying to make it.

Ha! You think Heroes’ television audience dwindled because people are downloading it now? Have you been in a Heroes thread lately? The fans are sick of being jerked around, and the audience has been leaving in droves since the season two premiere.

people watch pirated shows because it’s “on demand” on steroids. you could literally watch hundreds of shows and thousands of movies WHENEVER YOU WANT at the click of a mouse - and it’s all free. even the nominal fee netflix charges seems insurrmountable compared to FREE. especially with the movement of pirated movies to streaming format rather than downloaded format, it becomes even easier and more enticing to watch shows online.

technology is most definitely moving faster than the networks can keep up and there’s nothing they can do about it. even if they had opened up a bittorrent-esque site 2 years ago to compete with the torrentz-piracy they would be outdated now with the streaming stuff. even if they did stream the shows online, they couldn’t compete with the ad-free atmosphere or the pan-network diversity.

it’s really just a loss that the studios have to deal with. whining about it just seems petulant. its like the car industry protesting electric cars instead of manufacturing hybrids, or the train industry lobbying for subsidies instead of upgrading to high speed rail. anachronistic, wasteful, and ultimately futile.

“dinky computer monitor” my ass. I watch my pirated shows on my 1080p flatscreen. I used to have cable. I had a DVR. A DVR which could only hold something like 50 episodes at a time, complete with the commercial breaks, and a tendency to not record new episodes for no reason, and another tendency for recorded stuff to either disappear, or refuse to play. Once they’re gone, there’s really no other good way to get them back. I have my OWN DVR now, it’s called my computer and a fast usenet server - high def episodes with the commercials already removed, downloaded and watched when I want to watch them. And if my “DVR” fills up, I can always back things up on DVDs and come back to it later. I’m in a financial situation where just about all of my income goes towards paying bills and rent, and I would just FF through commercials anyway, so it’s not like the networks are losing any revenue from me not seeing them.

Overall, it’s way easier and more convenient for me to PIRATE shows than it is to do play by the networks’ rules.

I’m just really curious as to how accurate these statistics are. Are these just torrent tracker data? I seldomly use torrents for TV shows, so I wonder if I’m included in those totals?

Oh, and I gave up on Heroes about halfway through season 3.

I know, right? In this day and age, whenever I see a reporter mention the dinky computer screen drawback to pirating, they lose a chunk of credibility. People have been using their TVs as external monitors for years, and modern TVs pretty much are monitors, not TVs.