Starting last Monday, Fox began delaying the availability of new episodes on Hulu and Fox.com for 8 days. The decision goes directly against the wishes of the public but Fox will take this disappointment as collateral damage in the hope that the delay will result in more live viewers and better deals with cable and satellite distributors.
When the plan was first announced last month we predicted that it could lead to a significant boost in online piracy of Fox shows, and this does indeed turn out to be the case.
Over the last week TorrentFreak tracked two Fox shows on BitTorrent to see if there was an upturn in the number of downloads compared to the previous weeks, and the results are as expected. For both Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef the download numbers have surged.
During the first 5 days, the number of downloads from the U.S. for the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen increased by 114% compared to the previous 3 episodes. For MasterChef the upturn was even higher with 189% more downloads from the U.S. For MasterChef; the extra high demand may in part have been facilitated by the fact that it was the season finale.
Aside from BitTorrent, there are of course many other options for people to catch up with a missed episode. YouTube for example, from where tens of thousands of people streamed the latest Hell’s Kitchen episode.
Instead of Hulu or Fox, the pirates get the praise. On YouTube and BitTorrent sites many users thank the uploaders for making the shows available.
“You so rock and allowed me to keep my promise to my son. I promised if he cleaned for one hour he could watch Hell’s Kitchen with me. He was excited and then disappointed that we couldn’t watch it on Hulu or Fox.com,” WithurShield writes.
“Thanks a lot for uploading these, Hulu used to be my go-to but alas, they have failed me,” minniemica adds.
On the other hand, several users who went to Hulu expecting to see a fresh episode left comments berating Fox (although most target Hulu) for their decision not to make the episodes available for free.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I went to Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef. Right in the middle of the series idiot at Hulu decided to through in the pay services. At least have the decency to wait till the end [sic],” one commenter writes on Hulu.
“What I don’t like is up until now I have been able to watch the episode of Hell’s Kitchen the day after it airs and all of a sudden they now want me to pay for it?” another commenter adds.
There is no doubt that the Hulu delay is not in the best interests of TV-viewers. Although it might be a good business decision in the short term, one has to doubt whether driving people to ‘pirated’ content is a wise choice. To many viewers it is clearly a step backward.
Instead of artificial restrictions the public demands flexibility when it comes to entertainment. They want to decide when and where they want to watch something, and right now video streaming sites, BitTorrent and even the old VCR do a better job at this than Fox.
“I’m going to go buy a DVR or dust off my VCR and I will be recording my tv shows from now on,” a commenter writes on Hulu.