According to BitTorrent news site, TorrentFreak, at any given moment, nearly half of all active BitTorrent users are downloading pirated TV shows. TorrentFreak estimates that one of the most popular TV shows, Lost, garners "close to 10 million downloads per episode." According to the Nielsen TV ratings for last week, the two-hour series finale of Lost had 12.3 million broadcast TV viewers. This means that almost as many people are downloading the show as are watching it when it originally airs.
"People are getting used to on-demand content. They simply want to watch their favorite shows whenever they want, wherever they want. To give some more insight into this growing phenomenon, and because Nielsen is not counting BitTorrent downloads, we decided to start a weekly report of the most downloaded TV shows on BitTorrent."
TorrentFreak's first week of collected data is from May 25 to June 1, and from that data they assembled a list of the 10 most downloaded TV shows from that time period. TorrentFreak's data is below in the left column of the table. As a point of comparison, the Neilson rankings for the same approximate time period (May 26 to June 1) are in the right column. Both lists are in order, with the most popular shows at the top.
TorrentFreak assembled the data by sampling a number of representative BitTorrent sites. They concede that their timing was a bit off as, "popular shows like Desperate Housewives, House and Greys Anatomy just had their season finale [the previous] week."
Arguing the pros and cons of downloading pirated content via BitTorrent is a debate for another time and place. However, what we're interested in is the dichotomy between what is being downloaded and what is being watched live on TV.
For the most part, there aren't any real surprises, considering the typical demographic of the tech-savvy BitTorrent user: male and geeky. Of course Lost and Battlestar Galactica are numbers one and two. We're sure if new episodes of the Bionic Woman and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles aired last week, they would probably in the top five downloaded shows as well.
We do have one question, however: Men in Trees? Are guys downloading this for their girlfriends? Or has the glass ceiling of the male-dominated world of content piracy finally been breached?