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UK iTunes Gets Vampire Diaries Ahead of TV Premiere

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The UK’s ITV (s ITV) will make available episodes of the CW Hit Show Vampire Diaries on Apple’s (s AAPL) iTunes well before they’re scheduled to air on the network itself, according to a report from The Guardian. Vampire Diaries will premiere on ITV in February, but the first episode of the show will be available to British iTunes users starting today.

The early online premiere of the show is in part due to fears of piracy, but Warner and ITV also hope to use Apple’s download store to create buzz for the show. Whether either of these goals can be achieved by this move remains to be seen. iTunes has long been the king of digital music downloads, but it hasn’t exactly been a dominant force in distributing TV programming online.

ITV plans to release episodes on iTunes right after they air on the CW. However, the U.S.-based network has a bit of a head start. Vampire Diaries premiered on the CW in September, and the show is actually on a holiday break right now, with the next episode scheduled to air Jan. 21st. ITV wants to use that time to publish all 10 episodes that already aired stateside on the UK iTunes store.

Vampire Diaries has been a smash hit for CW. The most recent episode had almost 5 million viewers if you include DVR views, according to TV by the Numbers. The show’s also had its fair share of BitTorrent downloads, though it isn’t currently in The Pirate Bay’s Top 100 list of most-downloaded show. Of course, Warner would like to keep it out of that list. The Guardian quotes Warner Bros Entertainment UK president  Josh Berger as saying that the pre-broadcast iTunes presence “provides consumers with a high-quality legal alternative to pirated versions.”

The question is, will they bite? Apple announced a year ago that it had sold 200 million TV shows on iTunes, but has kept mum on more recent sales records. Those numbers are not only dwarfed by the millions of viewers who tune into oldteevee every night, but also by free and ad-supported online TV offerings. Hulu delivered 856 million streams in October alone, according to comScore. Maybe a better way to compete with piracy would have been to actually broadcast the shows on the same day, and put up an ad-supported version online soon after.

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