When Hulu first launched in 2008 there was an immediate effect on the piracy rates in the United States.
Having a free, legal and on-demand option to catch up with missed TV-shows suddenly made BitTorrent a less urgent need.
But in the years that followed Hulu and other TV-streaming sites didn’t turn out to be the holy grail for everyone. Although many consumers were delighted with the services, the TV bosses noticed that online ad revenue couldn’t compete with that of traditional TV.
This is one of the main reasons why Fox will stop broadcasting its shows on Hulu and Fox.com the day after they air on TV. Starting August 15, the public will have to wait at least 8 days before Fox content will be streamed online, a delay that may motivate many people to once again turn to BitTorrent.
When Hulu first launched, TorrentFreak researched whether it had any effect on the number of people from the U.S. who were downloading TV-shows. Our findings suggested that this could be indeed the case. Between October 2007 and October 2008 nearly all the shows we tracked saw a decrease in U.S. downloaders.
One of the most pronounced decreases came from the Fox show Prison Break, where the percentage of U.S. downloaders went down 36%. The decrease was the sharpest in the first week, where the number of U.S. downloads of a single episode dropped by tens of thousands.
Based on the above, it’s a safe guess to say that Fox’s decision to add a delay to the online broadcast will now cause a healthy bump in the number of U.S. downloads. But this is not a big surprise for Fox, it is a calculated business decision where piracy is merely seen as collateral damage.
Although some people may turn to BitTorrent, Fox hopes that there will also be more TV-viewers because of this new delay. And since TV-advertising is much more lucrative than online ads, they may end up making more money because of it, at least in the short run.
In the end, making money is much more important than pleasing consumers or decreasing piracy.