The Age has a revealing article on work done by Alex Malik which concludes that the delay between the US/UK and Australia release dates for television are one of the primary reasons what people turn to bittorrent:
Huge delays in airing overseas TV shows locally are turning Australians into pirates, says a study conducted by technology lawyer and researcher Alex Malik. It took an average of 17 months for programs to be shown in Australia after first airing overseas, a gap that has only increased over the past two years, the study found. The findings were based on a “representative sample of 119 current or recent free-to-air TV series or specials”, said Malik, who is in the final stages of a PhD in law at the University of Technology Sydney. […]
Malik admitted there had been some signs of progress recently – programs such as The O.C. air within days of being shown in the US – but he insisted the overall delays had become longer. “Over the past two years, average Australian broadcast delays for free-to-air television viewers have more than doubled from 7.6 to 16.7 months,” the study reads. Malik also studied comments by TV viewers on various internet forums, and concluded: “These delays are one of the major factors driving Australians to use BitTorrent and other internet-based peer-to-peer programs to download programs illegally from overseas, prior to their local broadcast.”
Malik’s findings are perfectly in line with the idea of the tyranny of digital distance which I’ve written about before (see “The Tyranny of Digital Distance” and “The Battlestar Galactica Webisodes & The Tyranny of Digital Distance“). Malik’s study is further evidence that as long as media distributors continue to enforce ridiculous national/geographic-based release dates in an era of global information (and promotion, and fan actvitity), then bittorrent will continue to be a major source of TV for Australians. However, if we could legally download episodes at the same times as our US and UK neighbours, then media companies may very well discover that they could make more money, not less, by giving Australian consumers the choices we want!