Half of the people who use BitTorrent do so to download TV-shows. Some episodes of popular shows such as ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lost’ get up to 10 million downloads. We had a chat with Jesse Alexander, the co-producer of both ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lost’, and asked him what his thoughts are on BitTorrent, piracy and the future of TV.
Jesse Alexander has co-produced and written for both ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lost’, two of the most successful TV-series today. In addition to millions of viewers on TV, both shows are are also extremely popular on BitTorrent. In fact, millions of people share a single episode and this can go on to 10 million downloads per episode.
One could argue that their availability on BitTorrent actually helped ‘Lost’ and ‘Heroes’ to build a stronger fanbase. With torrents, no-one has to miss an episode anymore which keeps the fans more engaged. So called “pirates” advertise the shows to their friends, or write about it on their blogs. Accordingly, when we asked Jesse Alexander whether he thinks that BitTorrent might have helped to reach a broader audience, he answered with a clear cut “Yes”.
Not that Jesse wants everybody to get the shows off BitTorrent, but he said that it certainly signals that there is a market for on-demand and interactive TV. “People watching shows such as Lost and Heroes on BitTorrent is the present world reality,” Jesse told TorrentFreak. TV networks have to recognize this, give their viewers more ways to interact with the shows, and find ways to generate revenue from every member of the global audience.”
“It’s the same for music artists. The reality is, people share music. Artist now make money by driving people to concerts, through community websites, and by offering exclusive events. TV networks are focusing too much on one exclusive product, instead of building a community. This is a mistake I think.”
The success of Heroes on BitTorrent didn’t pass by the cast of the show unnoticed either. “The cast and the people behind the scenes have all been talking about it,” Jesse said. As an example he mentioned last year’s promotional tour in France, where the actors were recognized by hundreds of fans, even though the show had not even premiered on TV yet.
Alexander has hit the nail on the head. This is in fact one of the main reasons why shows like ‘Heroes’ are so popular on filesharing networks. It can take up to six months after the US premiere before these shows are aired in Europe, Australia and other parts of the world. Jesse agreed that this is indeed one of the major causes of piracy. “This gap is something that is certainly going to change in the future,” he added.
Jesse went on to say that in the near future, thanks to the Internet, the viewers of TV-shows will see more interactive components and alternate realities they can participate in. The future of TV will be more international, with real interaction, and shows will be more and more integrated into the core part of an online community.
When we asked Jesse if he has ever downloaded TV-shows off BitTorrent, he told us: “I can’t confirm or deny, but I’m familiar with all kind of new technologies.” I guess we all know what he’s trying to say.
It is no surprise that Jesse is more positive towards new technologies than some others in the entertainment industry. Last week we reported on the upcoming “Pirate TV” show that he is working on, together with Matt Mason, the author of ‘The Pirate’s Dilemma’.
“Matt’s book needs to get a broader audience,” said Jesse. “We want to discuss the negative and the positive side of piracy, and place things in a broader historical context. We want to start a real conversation about the future of intellectual property.”
We’re happy to join the debate, what about you?