(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

More Than Half of Australian Internet Users Download TV via Torrents

Thursday, December 14, 2006
Lara Sinclair reports in today's Australian IT that a University of Sydney study has found 53% of Australian internet users regularly download TV shows online:
The research, conducted by University of Sydney honours student Adam Zuchetti, shows one in four people download TV programs twice a week or more, with downloads now the main form of TV viewing for 21 per cent of respondents. Almost 800 TV fans responded to the survey, which was conducted on local TV websites earlier this year. [...]

All of the free-to-air networks are experimenting with making clips from programs available over the internet, with Ten's podcasts of its comedy Thank God You're Here just one example. The network has also screened shows such as The OC and Jericho within 24 hours of their US debut in order to reduce the temptation for fans to go online. [...]

Lost was the most downloaded show, the study revealed, followed by Veronica Mars, House, Prison Break and Dr Who.

Paid downloads are among the options local TV operators are exploring to make more shows available on demand: Yahoo7 has flagged its intention to make fresh episodes of TV shows available over the internet for a price. Ten has meanwhile made clips from Australian Idol available to watch with pre and post-roll video ads.

According to Zuchetti's study, a slight majority (53 per cent) of respondents say they are prepared to pay for content, but one in three will not. "The most popular option would be to offer the choice of the two: paid, or free downloads with advertising," he says.

On the back of studies like this one, it should be apparent that treating Australia as a market that operates in a vacuum simply won't work. Consumers take the easiest path to the shows they want to see. Websites, and advertising online, hype the upcoming shows in the US, but these currents (especially the fan-driven ones) are often just as powerful in Australia. The Australian media marketplace is already dominated by US products, so it's no surprise that four of the five most downloaded shows were from the US. Personally, I still think sales of legally downloadable TV shows (using the iTunes store or something similar) is the best way to maximise on the buzz of new US (and UK) shows. The media giants in Australia just need to work out how they're going to get their slice of the pie in different ways, or, thanks to the ease of bittorrent and similar services, they won't get any at all.

Update: As the comments on this post point out, the survey sample was on the small side and self-selected by TV fans. The actual percentage of the Australian population downloading TV shows is estmiated by many to be more around the 5 - 10% mark.

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