The flap NBC caused earlier this year when it asked YouTube to remove its “Saturday Night Live” “Lazy Sunday” clip touched off a wave of concern regarding video-sharing sites and the piracy of copyrighted television content. However, in the intervening months it turns out the uproar may have been much ado about nothing.
The amount of pirated TV shows appearing on peer-to-peer networks in July 2006 accounted for about 2.65 percent of the total material, compared with 1 percent in July 2005, a negligible increase, according to Big Champagne, an online media measurement firm that tracks piracy. Joe Fleischer, chief marketing officer for Big Champagne, said the online availability of TV shows is actually additive to the television business.
“TV is not under the same pressure at all that music is,” he said. That’s because the legitimate digital model for music in iTunes and Napster unbundled singles from CDs, drastically reducing the music industry’s revenue, he said.
The television business, however, opened a new revenue stream with $1.99 online TV shows. “The more TV makes its content available in the way consumers want to consume it, the industry will not be Napsterized as music has,” he said.
Many television executives agree. Mark Cuban, co-founder of HD Net, doesn’t worry about fighting piracy. “Steal a TV show and it probably means you are committing to it, which is always a good thing,” he said.
Other networks take a firmer line. NBC Universal fights piracy by legal means and also asks Web sites to remove unauthorized content, said J.B. Perrette, senior VP of new media and chief financial officer of NBC Universal Cable. The media giant has also sought legitimate forums for its videos online, such as iTunes, and peer-to-peer site Peer Impact. NBC also inked a deal in June with YouTube allowing users to create promos for NBC’s “The Office.”