There’s long been talk that the world of piracy would basically crumble if desired content is made universally available, and that users won’t flock to pirated media if they are able access the content through legal channels. Even promising research from Sweden indicates that users will snap in line if the legitimate option was good enough.
But despite the fact that AMC deliberately distributed its hit show Breaking Bad worldwide within hours of its U.S. premiere, the file is set to break a record for illegal downloads on BitTorrent. Maybe old habits die hard?
According to research by TorrentFreak, about half a million people snagged an illegal download of Breaking Bad’s newest episode within 12 hours of the file hitting BitTorrent. The popularity of the file actually has the momentum to break the series’ own record for illegal downloads from last year, which currently stands at more than 2.5 million.
The biggest offenders were actually countries where the episode was available quickly through paid services. The country with the lion’s share of downloads, Australia, could view the episode via paid network FoxTel. The UK scored a deal from Netflix to make the episode available just a few hours after U.S. airing. Even the fifth-place country, the Netherlands, had the Breaking Bad premiere hours before it hit American televisions.
It seems that while AMC had good intentions of making its content available, distribution over legal channels is just one half of the accessibility equation. People simply don’t like paying for content, or to adopt a costly subscription service or cable channel to watch the final episodes of their favorite series. The increased piracy could also be related to the timing of distribution announcements — that users could neither gain nor switch to the premium services necessary to watch Breaking Bad in time for its premiere. They would rather not miss a minute of Walt’s scary science, and perhaps more will adopt legal channels down the road.
That, or people just love to torrent out of habit. In any case, AMC’s treatment is a move in the right direction for cable channels, there just needs to be more like it.