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It’s been just a week since Fox instituted its eight-day delay for non-authenticated viewers of its shows online, and already people are heading to BitTorrent to watch instead. According to TorrentFreak, the number of viewers downloading shows like MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen has surged dramatically over the past few days.
Last week, Fox instituted a new TV Everywhere–like authentication system whereby viewers have to log in and prove that they are either pay-TV subscribers or Hulu Plus subscribers to get next-day access to its shows. But the system launched with only one distributor — Dish Network (s DISH) — actually on board, which means that the vast majority of subscribers who do pay for TV can’t view those shows. Stymied by the login system, many viewers are looking elsewhere for the latest episodes of their favorites shows, including torrent sites.
Of course, there are precious few new shows during the summer TV season, but the Fox content that is new is attracting a lot of attention on torrent sites since the change. While viewers who missed live airings of the show on TV might have tuned in to MasterChef or Hell’s Kitchen on Hulu or Fox.com, now they’re downloading those shows illegally.
TorrentFreak reports that the during the first five days of the new system, the number of U.S.-based downloads for the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen was up 114 percent when compared to the previous three episodes. For MasterChef, which was showing its season finale, the increase was even more dramatic, up 189 percent compared to recent episodes.
Making shows available on Hulu and network sites like Fox.com in an ad-supported format is one way that the broadcasters have sought to fight against the pirating of their shows in recent years. And the plan appeared to be working — while absolute file-sharing traffic has continued to grow, over the past few years it has slowed dramatically as a percentage of overall data traffic online. Meanwhile, the amount of traffic from legitimate streaming sites like Netflix (s NFLX) has increased.
While one week is a small sample, the bump in torrent traffic is bad news for Fox as the fall TV season approaches. Competitive reality shows like Hell’s Kitchen or MasterChef are usually watched live, compared to shows like Family Guy or Bones. That suggests the impact of viewers turning to torrent sites might be even greater once shows generally watched on demand after their original broadcast date begin to air new episodes.
Fox says that it’s working to sign up more partners to use its authentication system. But with just weeks before shows like Glee, Fringe and House begin airing again, it will need to reach agreements with a number of distributors if it hopes to fight a return to file-sharing sites by its viewers.