Entertainment

Dr Who transports ABC to forefront of anti-piracy war

The cashed-up commercial TV sector is the loudest voice in the room when it comes to complaining about piracy. To the government. To internet service providers. And to their audience.

But on the weekend it was the humble national broadcaster, our dear old Aunty, that took the fight to the pirates and won.

The new <i>Dr Who</i> episode set a record for the ABC's iView platform.
The new Dr Who episode set a record for the ABC's iView platform. 

The ABC's decision to launch the new series of Doctor Who via its iView online platform a week before airing it on TV has paid dividends.

Almost 80,000 diehard Doctor Who fans pounced and watched the episode, titled Asylum of the Daleks, on Sunday. That is a record for the iView site, clocking the most plays by one program in a 24-hour period since its launch.

That number probably represents only 10 to 15 per cent of its total potential TV audience, but the move is significant because it effectively closes the window on online piracy.

Research shows the period in which content (films, music and TV) is vulnerable to piracy is the period between when it launches internationally and when it launches in local markets.

By making Doctor Who available to its viewers immediately after it airs in Britain, the ABC is effectively circumventing any inclination fans might have to download it from an unlicensed source.

The episode was significant because it featured the return of the show's iconic villains - the Daleks - and because it featured several different types of Dalek, from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Because of that, the episode's debut was preceded by a massive global marketing campaign. The ABC's bold strategy effectively unlocked enormous value from the global marketing machinery behind the show.

Most commercial networks now "fast track" key overseas programs because of pressure from viewers and the fear of losing audiences to online downloading, but they tackle it with varying levels of enthusiasm and success.

The commercial broadcasters usually announce their fast-tracking plans closer to the launch of the US season, typically around September or October.

One of the biggest hurdles in getting TV network programmers to back strategies such as these is the long-held belief that any support for online playback would discourage TV use.

But that position - which is, incredibly, still expressed behind closed doors in many network offices - is increasingly looking archaic.

It is also fuelled by a philosophy of subtraction - that is, any viewer not watching via a traditional TV set is a set of eyeballs considered lost.

Most blue-chip international broadcasters, such as the BBC and the US free-to-air networks NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox, are increasingly adopting a philosophy of addition - that is, audiences viewing programs on any platform are considered part of a cumulative total.

The ABC's 75,900 Doctor Who "views" on iView will not realistically damage the episode's broadcast potential.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of those iView-ers would have downloaded the program via bit torrent networks anyway, and that many will still watch the TV broadcast in order to participate in so-called "second-screen" activity, such as interacting on Twitter and Facebook, in real time.

By drawing them to iView, the ABC is able to encourage the habit of watching programs from licensed broadcasters, and also exposes them to the broadcaster's slate of other content.

The ABC iView record set by Doctor Who is for most plays in a 24-hour period. The previous record-holder was the debut of Angry Boys, but the ABC points out that the iView system is now available on multiple platforms, making direct comparisons difficult.

118 comments

Comments are now closed