A week after Fox made users wait to watch new shows on Hulu for free, tech site TorrentFreak says they’ve seen a drastic rise in the volume of illegal downloads of Fox shows.
TorrentFreak reported that over the first five days of Fox’s service change, Hell’s Kitchen saw an over 100 percent rise in illegal downloads compared with three previous episodes, and that MasterChef saw a rise of over 189 percent for the same comparison.
Fox instituted the delay to mollify the cable companies, who pay them the lions share of their revenue in re-trans rights. A week of exclusivity makes these incumbents feel better about the pretty penny they are shelling out for content.
For consumers of course, waiting over a week for a new episode (or making personal schedule changes to catch it in primetime) is far from an ideal or realistic expectation, especially for audiences members who have grown accustomed to on-demand viewing.
TorrentFreak also pointed out that Hulu.com and other legal online content venues had decreased illegal download traffic, proving that a lot of viewers want to watch legally if they can, even sitting through multiple ads online.
Now customers who used to watch their favorite shows on Hulu.com the day after they aired have three options: they can wait eight days for the show to appear for free as usual, they can pay for the content, or they can pirate it online. And after having their content provided for free for years, the majority of the slighted viewer base probably isn’t going to line Fox’s coffers to have it back.
NBC and the other wait-and-see networks are likely watching very closely as Fox tests the waters of the pay wall. But the real question, as bids come in today from the giants of the tech world who are interested in leveraging Hulu for their burgeoning web TV empires, is whether this will take even more of the sheen off an already-battered brand.