Illegal online TV and music download sites suffered major crackdowns in November last year, as the UK High Courts demanded that they get blocked by the UK’s major ISPs – BT, Sky, O2, Virgin Media and TalkTalk. Websites affected include Project Free TV, BeeMP3, Primewire and WatchFreeMovies.
It all started back in 2012 with Megauploads, when all its torrent websites were shut down by the United States Department of Justice on January 19, 2012. Since then, the entertainment industry has waged legal war on the perpetrators. But previously where they targeted torrent websites, it is the first time that action has been taken against illegal online streaming.
The entertainment industry has welcomed the decision with John McVay, chief executive of PACT stating that “Protecting producers’ IP rights is vital to the continued growth and success of the independent television production sector. We therefore welcome the news that Motion Picture Association [MPA] has succeeded in blocking these illegal sites in the UK.”
It’s a big achievement for the entertainment industry – but are they winning the battle against online TV streaming? Clearly, the illegal activity is a sign of the times and how broadcasting needs to change. Viewers are turning to these illegal services because no one wants to abide by restrictive TV schedules, or wait six months for shows already airing elsewhere.
Broadcasters are already instigating changes, with on-demand services now run by major channels such as 4oD, Demand5 and Sky On Demand. Still, broadcasters need to be innovating better and newer services ahead of the illegal site providers. Providing, quite rightly paid-for, legal versions of the same thing isn’t enough to get viewers back.
Blocking access will not solve the problem either, for in the months it takes to shut one site down, another will pop up elsewhere in days if not hours. What’s worse, consumers are now online, sharing with each other ways around the blockages.
It is important to remember that not all online streaming websites are illegal. Independent legal paid-for services are growing in popularity such as LoveFilm, Netflix and Tesco’s Blinkbox. The availability of what you can stream online is better, but still they are restricted by release schedules and permissions. However, so far, they are the acceptable middle ground between online broadcaster services and illegal tv streaming sites.
Understandably, it’s still frustrating for those working in entertainment with their viewers turning to illegal services because broadcasters are not innovating fast enough. But until broadcasters catch up to provide what illegal streaming sites cannot, it’s all just a big game of ‘Whac-A-Mole’ and these illegal sites are going to keep coming back.