Heroes (NBC) was downloaded 6.58 million times in 2009, meaning more fans tune in illegally than watch the show legally on television. Showtime’s Dexter is the only other show with more illegal sharers than weekly viewers: the show ranks number 4 with 2,780,000 downloads as compared with an average of 2,300,000 weekly viewers.
The runner-up is Lost (ABC) with 6,310,000 downloads (11,050,000 weekly viewership); number 3 is Prison Break (Fox) with 3,450,000 downloads (5,300,000 viewers) and at number 5 it’s House (Fox) with 2,590,000 downloads (15,600,000 viewers). (The figures show average number of downloads per episode and number of weekly viewers)
Number 6 – 24 (Fox) with 2,440,000 downloads (12,620,000 viewers); 7 – Desperate Housewives (ABC) with 2,180,000 downloads (15,500,000 viewers); 8 – Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox) with 1,960,000 downloads (6,340,000 viewers); 9 – Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) with 1,740,000 downloads (15,640,000 viewers) and at 10 True Blood (HBO) with 1,600,000 downloads (12,400,000 viewers).
Commenting on the piracy of US TV-shows Torrentfreak observed: “The rise of unauthorised downloading of TV-shows is a signal that customers want something that is not available through other channels. Availability seems to be the key issue why people turn to BitTorrent, and this is also reflected in the fact that most downloads occur from countries where the show has yet to air on TV.”
The blog continues: “Despite massive piracy of TV-shows, there are plenty of opportunities for distributors and broadcasters to win viewers back. The piracy figures simply show that TV viewing habits are changing. There is a huge interest in on-demand TV and there are millions of viewers that can potentially bring in millions of dollars in revenue.”
The list from Torrentfreak confirms earlier research on the topic (see Broadband TV News passim).