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Doctor Who goes back in time to beat TV pirates

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Some people just can’t wait. Delaying syndicated broadcasts of TV shows to overseas territories often gives eager viewers a window in which to download unauthorised episodes encoded in their country of origin.

But now Australian broadcaster ABC is aiming to beat the pirates by satisfying demand from one of the most avid groups of fans.

It will place online episodes of the upcoming seventh series of Doctor Who just 50 minutes after they end up in the UK (announcement).

Although the September 1 season opener won’t air on Australian television until September 8, by placing the episodes on its iview catch-up service just after UK transmission ends, ABC will eliminate the week-long opportunity pirated copies have previously had to gain viewer share.

Typically, shows are added to catch-up services only after their broadcasters’ linear TV transmission.

ABC1 controller Brendan Dahill (via

“Piracy is wrong, as you are denying someone their rights and income for their intellectual property. The fact that it is happening is indicative that as broadcasters we are not meeting demand for a segment of the population.

“So as broadcasters we need to find convenient ways of making programs available via legal means to discourage the need for piracy.”

Of course, this won’t stop ripped encodings from being made or circulated. But ABC, by super-serving Doctor Who fans (the episodes will go online at 5.10am on a Sunday following UK transmission), will likely gather to its official channel an audience renowned for wanting to see its favourite show as soon as possible.

ABC has previously experimented with placing its legal drama, Rake, on iview before TV transmission. “This is the first time a big blockbuster TV show will air in full on an Australian online player within hours of its official release elsewhere.”

12 Responses to “Doctor Who goes back in time to beat TV pirates”

  1. ABC is free anyway

    ABC in Australia is a Government funded broadcaster, so the arguments about denying revenue to producers are a little spurious as they do not show ads (except for their own shows) next to these shows (which in the case of the BBC produced Doctor Who, is paid for by a fee paid by UK Television owners). They do sell DVDs and other Doctor Who merchandise in ABC shops, so perhaps this is the revenue that is being denied, but as they’re only talking about streaming the content, I don’t see that it would make much difference to those who want to have a copy to watch anytime.
    I don’t see how it hurts anyone if I download an episode of Doctor Who from a torrent, when for slightly more effort I could have recorded it from the free to air broadcast anyway, which as a tax payer in Australia I am paying for.

  2. This is just beating the torrent websites to it and stealing their traffic. Hopefully the extra traffic/ads revenue for the TV stations make them back the extra £££ they’ll have to pay to air the shows immediately. If so I reckon it will have an impact on TV piracy. Doubt we’ll see many channels taking the risk however.

  3. Taylor Trask

    This is truly a GLOBAL show, and should be treated as such. The BBC finally figured this out when they began airing it in America the same day as in the UK, and then selling it on iTunes the day later. I guarantee you this is why it was the #1 show on iTunes last year.

    Australia’s move only continues the refining of this strategy. This strategy will continue to shape future content delivery as more properties become global.

  4. Brenna Lyons

    Good move. Wish it was available on Amazon that quickly. That’s where I purchase them, and I’d love to be able to see them just after UK release.

  5. I believe that people pirate their TV shows and movies because there’s no alternative. For example, last year, our friends in the UK watched Doctor Who before we did, and we felt like we wanted to watch too.

    It is yet to be proven by this (and other) example of providing legitimate means for obtaining media, but I think it will reduce piracy for sure.

  6. Vivek Shenoy

    This is a good move. But, what most broadcasters and studios seem to neglect are the Asian countries. The release of the shows are delayed, the DVDs far too expensive. Not surprised that people in such countries do end up pirating!

    Also, can’t wait for this season!