At least half a dozen highly anticipated broadcast network fall pilots have been leaked online.
Copies of NBC’s “Bionic Woman,” ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” The CW’s “Reaper” and several other shows were available Friday for illegal download via sites such as Torrent Spy, The Pirate Bay and Mininova.
Most of the titles appear to have been uploaded within the past week. The first copy of “Bionic” was listed as uploaded two days ago, while the earliest “Reaper” file was date-marked seven days ago. Other leaked shows include Fox’s midseason “The Terminator” spin-off “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” ABC’s “Cavemen,” and NBC’s “Chuck” and “Lipstick Jungle.”
Network representatives expressed surprise that the full-length pilots were on the Web and alerted their studio partners. Some said they were anticipating that critic and industry screener copies would leak eventually as smattering of fall pilots have found their way online during the past few years. All networks contacted declined official comment.
TelevisionWeek downloaded and confirmed the content of several pilot files. The videos were of reasonably high quality, akin to the streaming programs on broadcast network Web sites.
“This baby is real and nice quality,” one user posted about "Connor" on Pirate Bay. “Wish I could say more about the content, but there is potential.”
Another user wrote, “A lot better than I'd expected … a bit weird though -- this isn't supposed to air until 2008.”
Most of the leaked shows are among the more anticipated, buzz-heavy titles of the fall (there are many copies of “Bionic” and “Connor” online, for example, but no copies of ABC’s “Carpoolers” or The CW’s “Life is Wild” were found). Given the selection, some downloaders wondered if the networks and studios leaked the programs themselves. Network and studio representatives, however, denied uploading the shows.
“We’re doing everything we can to fight piracy,” said one major studio representative who declined to be identified. “Our piracy department is playing whack-a-mole with these things.”
In recent years, some networks have begun to distribute premiere episodes online in advance of their debuts. Such promotional previews are often carefully timed to hit right before the regular broadcast of the show. Also, network previews are typically streamed via the network’s own Web site, or through other controlled environments such as popular portal and business partners like AOL or MSN.
The copies found online so far will probably be joined by lower-quality versions soon, according to one studio representative who was attending the Comic-Con convention in San Diego. Networks at the comic book convention are currently screening several popular pilots. Judging by the number of handheld video recorders in the audience, the executive said he expected to see more unauthorized copies of network shows online.