Why don't TV shows get 'leaked'?

I am still a newbie here…this is my first thread I made all by myself (yay me!) so I am still only guessing if this is the right forum. I apologize in advance if it is better suited elsewhere.

This has been bugging me for a while, but even more so after reading the Glee thread here where there is some speculation/wondering as to what might happen within the show when it returns after its hiatus. Why don’t television shows get leaked the way some movies do?

I know about the legality aspects, and I do not nor do I advocate illegally downloading anything and I am not asking for help to find pirated media or anything like that, but every now and then you hear about a movie making it to the internet before its theatrical release, usually by way of ‘screener’ copies or ‘work copies’ (ala Watchmen) but you never hear of the same thing for (popular) television shows. [I know television shows do get ‘pirated’ but it is my understanding that episodes are only available after the original air date.]

Is it just no one cares enough to break the law for something that will be free to view (excepting cable fees of course) or that there is no money to be made on pirating television (although I am still at a loss as to how money is made by posting illegal copies online) or are television shows not filmed far enough ahead of airing to make it practical to pirate them or is it something else entirely?

Again, just wondering about the “whys” and I am not trying to open a discussion or debate about how to or whether to participate in any illegal activity.

They do on occasion. I recall reading details in a tabloid about the Newhart final episode before it aired, though, interestingly, all of it was correct except the details of the final minute, which suggested to me that a fake ending had been deliberately circulated.

First, welcome.

I think this is a big part of it.

Another part is that TV shows are, by and large, free. I don’t know that there’s a huge financial incentive to pirate free stuff.

Also, TV shows are a lot less circulated than movies prior to them being released. They have a much smaller group of people that have access to them (smaller crew). A movie, on the other hand, is often sent to several critics and awards people (to be considered for awards, where they’re called “screeners” and are often the source of leaks) and are generally more spread about before being officially released. A TV show is more or less sent directly to the network to be aired.

It does happen, quite frequently actually. Usually though it’s the season premiere or the series premiere for a new show. It’s very uncommon for shows midseason to be leaked ahead of the airing schedule.

This has lead to speculation that these aren’t actually “leaks”, but are being deliberately released by the studios ahead of time to create buzz, particularly for new shows. I know that the pilot for “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was available online weeks before the show premiered for example. It wasn’t a workprint or anything either, it was the finished show.

Yes, I remember that too and it was (is?) not uncommon to read similar stories about popular shows and for alternate endings to be shot to keep the masses from finding out, as long as someone knows there is the risk that they will tell. But I was specifically wondering about copies to view (like what happens with movies) on torrent sites etc.

But the Newhart final episode in particular underlines why I am confused that we don’t see more of it. That was a big deal, and sold lots of tabloids I am sure…so getting an actual copy seems like it would be an even bigger deal. Unless there is just no money to be made on it, which leads right back to the questions about how is money made on posting a pirated movie online anyway…

Thank you.

I get that, and I think you are probably correct and that might even be the biggest part. But how exactly is money made by making a screener copy of a movie available to the downloading public? The only money I can see in pirating anything is those who are mass producing and selling hard copies. It is HUGE business in the Philippines and every airman/soldier that I have known to do a TDY in the PI comes home with dozens of DVDs many of which are of movies that haven’t been released, but that isn’t what I am wondering about right now- it is strictly the virtual copies that confuse me.

With a movie, the pirate can just sell it at less than the cost of a movie ticket and the consumer realizes a savings. How can you sell it for less than free?

There also is a tighter production schedule. My ex worked in locations for both TV shows and movies filmed in Toronto. Television shows have much, much more compressed timelines from the time an episode script is approved (with amendments to fit budgets) to shooting the episode, through post-production. There is simply a lost less of an opportunity for footage to go wild before the air date. A film here might have a six week shooting schedule and then spend a long time in the post-production process, whereas the TV episode may have less than six days of filming. Post production also has a much faster turn-around time. In film it can drag on and on and on with too many cooks dabbling with the soup, so to speak, tweaking this and that.

Most blockbusters also have much more involved difficult F/X, which also adds time to post-production. No so much adding CGI explosions are anything, but rather masking out wires from safety lines used in stunts, improving the audio of an explosion that in real life was a quiet “foop!” rather than the teeth rattling “KA-FLOOM!” etc.

From what I’ve observed, it seems to me that there are just fewer opportunities for a completed episode to go astray before the air date. I would say the most likely time for footage to be leaked is during the post when all the footage is assembled and there are a lot of (legitimate) copies around from people doing run-of-the-mill things like backing up their work after a long day in the editing suite. So the longer the post-production period, the greater the risk that a fairly complete version of the final edit may escape into the wild. IIRC, that happened with Wolverine a final cut got loose, but it wasn’t the final post-production version. Wires from stunt work were still in plain sight and so forth.

It’s very common for British programs to be posted online before they air in the United States. Not all fans are willing to wait several months, especially when they’ve been following the hype on the pre-release hype Internet for more than a year and fan sites and forums are already filled with details about the episodes.

Not everyone does everything for money. Although I am not a leaker myself, I have used certain sites which won’t be named (strictly for research purposes) and have read a great many user posts. It seems some people enjoy being rebels and “outlaws” and sticking it to the man. A few may have specific grudges against the intellectual-property owners. But I think those are in the minority. More seem to see themselves as taking part in a kind of community. Why bring a snack or a bottle of wine to a party when you could just show up and eat other people’s food? Maybe because you want to help out, maybe because you think it’s just the proper thing to do, or maybe because you enjoy hearing people say you’re artichoke dip is the best they’ve ever tasted. (There’s a certain amount of oneupmanship in being the first one to post, or having the highest-resolution. Some “pirates” have reputations for posting the best downloads, and I imagine they take a certain amount of pride in that.)

Actually I will amend my post: one TV series my ex worked on was never broadcast in Canada (where we live), but I was able to watch the entire first season because she brought home copies of the complete finished episodes. In that particular case, she was working on the second season, had legitimate access to the first season episodes, and had to sign them out and return them. She never made copies, but in theory if we were less scrupulous individuals we could have.

It’s a lot more difficult to control copies that are released in one territory but not others or if there is a delay. Movies used to have a larger span between release dates in North America and Europe, but now the gap is shorter. For example Star Wars was released in the U.S. in May and the U.K. in December in 1977— a seven month gap. Wolverine was released to most of the world within three days because with today’s technology, once the movie was released in one territory it would be available in all the others, one way or another.

That is a little different though because the episodes are still being made available after the original air date (in the country they originally aired). Since the statute of limitations has surely passed, I will admit to having considered if not actually having done, obtaining shows in this manner when a it was series that was never going to show in my country and the available (for purchase) DVDs were not available to me (no international shipping, region codes issues, etc.).

This is true, and not something I considered in regards to pirating media. To my way of thinking (which is vastly different than from pirates or leakers I am sure) there is just too much risk to obtain/distribute screeners, work copies, cammed versions, what-have-you of movies (and televison shows) to do it for anything less than massive amounts of money (not that *I *would do it for money, just that I can’t imagine risking so much for little or no tangible reward).

They actually do but not much, because there is no interest and no real incentive to take a risk. It’s cool to put out a R5 movie but there is an amount of risk that goes with that. TV shows, as others have said are free and not really so cool

TV shows also have a “water cooler” effect, where people like to talk to their co-workers about them. So if you get an advanced copy who can you talk to it about. If you tell your co-workers they’re just as apt to be mad, 'cause you spoiled a show for them.

Iranian sites currently hold the #2 distinction for being the home to pirated and pre-releases. It’s hard to get a Persian-English translator, I don’t think Google has one yet. China is #1.

A lot of stuff is out there, you just got to look for it. Most people try Google and then quit, but Google will obey DMCA notices even if they are not really valid. So a lot of stuff is missing unless you know how to look for it

I know for a fact that lots of episodes of The Wire and Weeds (both belonging to premium cable channels) were leaked a few days before they aired.

The compressed timeline is a big part of it. I edit promos for TV shows, and we often have to work from dailies at the beginning of the season. A highly anticipated season premiere may not have an initial cut done until 1-2 weeks before air. The final cut with music, SFX, and color correction may not be finished until a few days from air.

On the other hand there is a lot more opportunity for leaks of shows that are held off to mid-season, like Lost. I’m not sure if it is the case for Lost, but they often start shooting in August along with the rest of the fall season shows, so there is more time for episodes to stock up before their run begins. This helps them do the no-rerun season. Reruns happen so that the studio can catch up since it takes more than a week to shoot and post a show.

Risk and professionalism also help keep shows from getting leaked. A TV series is a steady job. There are fewer places for a leak to occur, so it is easier to track down. No one wants to lose a steady gig by being found out, and a post production company doesn’t want to lose the show as a client by letting their security get compromised.

What you are more likely to get are spoilers, since the script is more widely circulated between various departments in the studio, production company, and network.

I haven’t read the thread so apologies if this has already been mentioned, but I’ve read from time to time that in the case of upcoming shows where there’s lots of interest, ala “Who shot J.R.,” etc., that several different endings may be shot, leaving the crew and actors unsure which ending will actually air. Thus no one but the producers, who have a vested interest in keeping the ending secret, knows how the show will end until it airs.

This is also true, and I am pretty familiar with what is out there and how to obtain it if I desired, but television just seems to always be after-the-fact- with more exceptions that I am learning about now. What I really want to see (again not that I would download it) is the next season of Glee, or the next season of The Office…the shows that are almost always available for download the next day (and are also available as streaming video on the networks websites the next day).

I wonder if belonging to premium cable channels makes the difference. More demand for it maybe by those who can’t (or won’t) simply wait a week and watch it for “free”? I myself do not subscribe to Showtime or HBO but was hopelessly addicted to OZ and Penn & Teller’s Bullshit. I would definitely have considered downloading pre-aired episodes if I had been watching in real time.

So maybe that is another factor: (1) fewer people handling it, (2) less time between production and broadcast, (3) no or little money or incentive and (4) not enough demand for network programs.

The Australian crime drama Underbelly was available as downloads before most of the series had aired. This was due to unusual circumstances - it had acquired enormous hype because it was banned from airing in Victoria because the trials of some of the real characters were still before the courts. The download versions were obviously stolen from the production company as they were incomplete - sometimes lacking music and with insert instructions for voice overs etc.

Both the first few episodes of Californication and the first episode of the current season of Dexter where available long before they aired in the US.

A few days ago our local TV critic wrote that she’d gotten her advance copy of the first four episodes of the next season of 24 from Fox, so there are copies floating around, I guess.

But the bigger issue is, unless you’re talkling about the BIG REVEAL, like the final episode of MAS*H (which the National Enquirer had) or whatever will happen on the final episode of Lost there isn’t enough interest to make an industry in pirating individual episodes. Even then, because TV is episodic, the final episode of Lost may be totally confusing unless we’ve seen the episode before it.

The pilot for the BSG spinoff Caprica was leaked online a couple days before the DVD was released. The entire first season of BSG aired in the UK before it did in the US resulting in American fans being able to download them. Contrary to the producers fears it didn’t have any kind of negative effect on the ratings when BSG finally premired on SciFi.

I think this happens more than you realize. The short time frame is probably throwing you off. A pirated movie may stay on the web for months or years. People still torrent it, because they don’t want to buy the DVD.

A television show is different. The only people interested in a leaked version will watch and tape the episode when it’s on. After that, there’s no need for the pirated version anymore.

Two good examples are Buffy and Days of Our Lives. At times, these shows were aired a day earlier in Canada. The instant an episode was aired in Canada, it was on the web. But if you weren’t a devoted fan, and visiting the right message boards, you probably never knew those shows were being “pirated.”

I also remember a leaked season premier of Buffy. It was after Willow became evil, and the special effects shots hadn’t been inserted yet.