The free version of Hulu has been extremely popular as a way to catch-up on TV shows, with freely episodes available only a day after the original TV airing. The success of Hulu has been seen by the industry as a victory against piracy, with networks also able to share in advertising profits.
However, Fox's recent decision to delay the availability of catch-up episode until 8 days after airing has had an unintended, but unsurprising effect on piracy rates, which has surged according to data tracked by TorrentFreak.
Fox's rationale for the delay is that the network feels more people would watch the live version if the single day delay catch-up service wasn't available, and this would lead to higher advertising revenue. But instead of following the path Fox had laid out, viewers are finding other ways to watch Fox shows in the way they want to, including illegally downloading them via BitTorrent networks.
TorrentFreak tracked two of Fox's shows on BitTorrent, Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef, and found that downloads for these shows surged 114% and 189% respectively compared to when the single day delay Hulu showing was still available. TF also found YouTube uploads of shows, which were also popular.
And it's not just illegal sources people are using to watch Fox shows to suit their busy schedules, with one Hulu users commenting that he plans to buy a DVR, or "dust off" the old VCR, to compensate for the lack of a timely catch-up airing.
So far from increasing revenue, Fox may have decimated their Hulu earnings, promoted piracy, and alienated viewers determined to watch their shows in their own ways.