Love it or loathe it, Lost‘s finale on the weekend has one special accolade that you may never have considered: It’s broken the BitTorrent record for the number of global downloads per day. This is a wake-up call for the TV industry.
According to TorrentFreak, over a million people around the world downloaded the epic twin final Lost episode in a period of just 24 hours after it’s initial screening in the U.S.–a phenomenal figure given that the average Lost episode got torrented by around 1.5 million people in the week after it hit the airwaves. At times during the day after, over 100,000 users were sharing files simultaneously over the peer-to-peer torrent grid.
After a high-profile multi-year run on TV, and with an audience that you may imagine contains a higher than average percentage of computerphiles, it’s no surprise that Lost is a torrent pirating favorite. But it is a tad surprising that so many people around the world chose to pirate the last episodes, given that the finale was broadcast in 59 nations simultaneously–in an effort to stem the need for pirating. As TorrentFreak notes a disproportionate share of the downloading happened in Australia, where the finale isn’t due to air until today. And perhaps this is the secret–59 nations just weren’t enough to buffer the show’s content owners from the fervent desires of Lost fans outside the U.S., and people also perhaps preferred to download the show so they could watch it at a more convenient time.
Time after time, people have proposed that one solution to piracy of TV shows and films is to make content available everywhere at the same time–by broadcast, or (reasonably priced) legal download, but the TV and movie industry doesn’t seem to care. Instead, as we’ve seen in recent moves by Time Warner Cable to woo Hollywood into “premium” early releases of movies onto the small screen, the industry is fiercely protective of the time delays and schedules it’s built into its business model. Things are a little more progressive in the TV biz, but this Lost statistic shows that there’s still some way to go. Pirates are going to keep grasping for content on their terms … and probably the only way for TV show makers to maximize their revenues is to recognize this as a genuine phenomenon and embrace it.