In 2007 Ice Age 2 was the first Blu-ray film to appear on BitTorrent. At the time, the number of people who owned a Blu-ray player was still very low, and the 22GB download was mostly seen as a curiosity.
Now, fast forward three years and Blu-ray has become mainstream. Not only have sales skyrocketed, but also the number of unauthorized downloads on BitTorrent and other file-sharing networks.
Last week’s store release of Avatar’s Blu-ray version has been a breakthrough for the format. In stores it sold millions of copies in just a few days, beating the previous records set by The Dark Knight in 2008. On BitTorrent we see a similar scenario.
With more than 200,000 downloads in the first four days, Avatar has squashed all competition. The download figures are still quite low compared to those of ‘regular’ pirated DVDs – this could be in part due to the larger file size (~10GB) and the fact that Blu-ray market penetration is nowhere near DVD levels yet.
Another interesting observation is that a relatively high percentage of downloads in the first few days came from the UK and Australia. One of the reasons for this could be that these countries had a later release date which means that the pirated Blu-ray was available to them before the retail version hit the local stores.
Again, it seems that a lack of availability is one of the major forces driving BitTorrent users to download films. Availability aside, DRM issues have reportedly prevented people from playing the disc in their Blu-ray player, so this could also have boosted download numbers a little.
Avatar has been an enormous success. Piracy was rampant but it has not hindered a film that has broken nearly all sales records in motion picture history. That must be somewhat reassuring for the film industry.