TV Wars: BitTorrent to the Rescue

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Millions of UK viewers who have already paid for access to shows such as Lost, 24 and Battlestar Galactica are now facing blank television screens because of a dispute between Virgin Media and BSkyB. They now face a stark choice: miss the shows they love so much, or download them via BitTorrent.

virginAn epic battle between Virgin Media and rival BSkyB , fought out in full-page newspaper ads, appears to have ended in deadlock. As a result, BSkyB has pulled the plug on several channels it supplies to Virgin for its cable TV customers, leaving millions stranded in the middle of current runs of Lost, 24 and Battlestar Galactica. And the sad thing is, many customers paid in advance for a service they wont get.

They are now greeted with this disappointing message when they turn their receiver to Sky One:

Thanks to Sky, some of the non-premium Sky channels, like Sky One and Sky News are no longer available. They’ve picked up their ball and gone home. We believe that Sky want to limit your choice and force consumers into switching service.

Indeed, the only hope for Virgin subscribers to see these programs is to take out a second subscription with arch-rival BSkyB. Or they could do it Pirate style, power up their BitTorrent client and visit a BitTorrent site, where they’re absolutely spoilt for choice.

A search on the popular BitTorrent site Mininova returns 642 hits for ‘Battlestar Galactica’, 1106 hits for Lost and 612 hits for ’24’. That means every single show that has aired in the United States (and the UK always gets its shows much later on, so is currently way behind) is now available for the Virgin Media customer with an internet connection, regardless of the disputes in their suppliers’ boardroom.

And UK TV addicts are not new to downloading TV shows. According to Envisional research, in 2005 some 18% of all TV show downloaders were in the UK and it warned “In effect, the Internet is now a global video recorder, perhaps more accurately, a free global PVR or Tivo. It has brought immense power to the individual TV viewer, but immense problems for the television industry.” In this case the reverse is true, the problems have been caused by the TV industry and will likely be sorted out by the tech-savvy with the aid of a BitTorrent client.



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