Restating something I’ve said previously on this blog… I imagine a day will come when one will be able to watch any TV network, from anywhere in the world (even subtitled in your own language, if the original program is in a language you don’t speak), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all at the click of a button… or two.
We’re moving in that direction (for example, my cable TV provider sells a package that includes a handful of non-American TV networks, though what’s offered is very limited), but we’re not quite there yet. The "Internet of things" is the anointed term used to describe what that world will be – essentially, a world in which everything is fully connected via the web, all the time, information/data flows uninterrupted, as every device of every kind communicates seamlessly, and there aren’t any barriers preventing one kind of data (content, for example) in one country from being available to connected devices in another. No delays. I think it’s inevitable.
If we were "there" now, then UK audiences wouldn’t have had to watch pirated episodes of Fox’s hit TV series "Empire," before it eventually made its way across the pond, premiering there earlier this week (Tuesday) on channel E4, almost 2 months after the end of its USA run. According TorrentFreak, the show was being illegally downloaded more than 250,000 times per episode via BitTorrent, while it aired in the USA; and that figure doesn’t even include the many other ways content can be pirated and distributed all over the world. So it’s anyone’s guess how much higher than 250,000 times the figure actually is.
But it was maybe thanks to the show’s piracy that it actually did get picked up by a UK network, because it apparently wasn’t even on any station chief’s radar, until audiences in the UK who had pirated it while it aired in the USA, started buzzing about it, which got the attention of TV network decision-makers who decided to act swiftly after the fact, and picked up the series.
Star of the show, Taraji P. Henson talked about all of this with the BBC earlier this week, as "Empire" was set to premiere in the UK – the full BBC report is embedded below.
Taraji said: "The only way that it [Empire] got over to the UK is because people were streaming it… They [UK TV networks] wouldn’t have known the show was that important, or that people wanted to see it, if they weren’t streaming it… You guys were streaming, and I know it’s a bad thing, but when the material is good people will find it… Thank you. Thank you everybody. People didn’t think it would do well over here [in the UK]. So [people said] get it over here, and that’s what they got."
Apparently, there was a bidding war for it amongst UK channels.
Nick Lee, buyer of international shows for channle E4, added the following: "We just think it fits so well on the channel… There was huge competition. I think most channels in the UK wanted it… This show put on 82% of audience between episode one and the series finale."
He’s of course referring to the fact that "Empire" is the first US TV show in around 3 decades to see a rise in viewership after each of its first 5 episodes – and more than 23 million people watched the series finale.
And what’s the response been to the series thus far?
If the piracy doesn’t already tell you something about audience interest in it, maybe the title of the review published by the UK version of GQ magazine will: "Empire is your new favourite TV show," it reads.
Listen to the BBC report, which includes Taraji P. Henson’s comments and more…