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Why is torrenting being ignored by the social TV world?

If you know anyone that lives outside the US that’s a TV junkie, there’s a good chance they religiously use torrenting to watch their favorite shows hours after they air on the East Coast. A few years ago I had the chance to hear CBS CEO Les Moonves speak at New York University, and I asked him if they care about the international community torrenting CBS’s content. He responded that the real problem with illegal downloading is with movies and that they’re not as concerned with TV.

His response made sense. If you download a movie that’s in theaters, you probably won’t spend the hefty price of going to the theater. For TV, the money’s in the pre-sold ad dollars and torrenting hasn’t reached a large enough scale to drastically change gross ratings.

The state of torrenting in 2011:

I recently spoke with Ashwin Navin, the CEO of Flingo, a unique company that builds apps across the different manufacturers’ Connect TV platforms. Navin is also one of the BitTorrent co-founders who described that one of the issues with the technology was that it was too difficult to navigate for older, less savvy TV watchers (15-30 males make up the made up the majority of torrenters).

If you’re unfamiliar with how torrenting works, check out the Wikipedia page, which describes the technology as follows: “Rather than downloading a file from a single source server, the BitTorrent protocol allows users to join a ‘swarm’ of hosts to download and upload from each other simultaneously.” More shocking to the social TV world should be that 40% of all Internet traffic came from Netflix and BitTorrent and that at the beginning of 2011 BitTorrent had 100 million users, more than Netflix and Hulu combined.

How fans go out of their way to get content via torrents:

Torrenting can be slightly tedious as Navin pointed out. You need a client to seed the files, you need to know where to find good torrent files and what a good torrent file looks like. You might be scared of viruses, or that engaging in these illicit activities will somehow destroy your computer, or worse – land you in legal trouble (which is a whole other conversation). All these efforts, while annoying, are clearly not stopping people and here’s proof.

Altman Vilandrie & Company is a strategy consulting group that focuses on the communications, media, smart grid, clean tech and related technology and investor sectors. They provided us with research from their annual report, which show that over 25% of 18-24 year-olds, just under 25% of 25-34 year-olds, about 15% of 35-44 year-olds and a bit over 5% of 55+ year-olds torrent TV shows/movies.

Why social TV marketers should embrace BitTorrent:

These stats should be an “aha” moment for social TV marketers trying to find their “super fans” and most passionate “brand advocates”. If checking-in a lot and having “influence” on the social web is currently the only standard, then we’re all not really looking deep into what’s out there. If one’s willing to go through all that trouble to not only get an episode, but to risk being seen as a criminal or “pirate,” then you know how much they really love that show. They shouldn’t be ignored for not wanting to watch car commercials, pay an MSO, or wait months for DVDs.

It’s time for someone to call up San Francisco-based BitTorrent and find a way to leverage this community of “pirate influencers.” The only thing the company seems to be pushing now is their pilot program for musicians. Also, check out TorrentFreak’s Top-10 TV list from 2010 to see which shows fans went above and beyond to watch.

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