When it Comes to Television, I’m Sworn to Piracy

Photographer: Jon Åslund

Photographer: Jon Åslund

On the delivery of powerful imagery and perceptions of what our lives either should be or actually are, television has done a wonderful job as a messenger, so far.

From the far heights of the Hollywood hills to the shores of the Greek islands, television shows have set the standard on what we westerners all wish to mimic as cultural consumers. Before the American dream of prosperity and wealth failed, it still managed to evolve into the universal dream of much of the civilised world. American TV shows have become the guidelines to this dream for much of the globe. It’s too bad much of that same globe has to sometimes resort to illegality in order to obtain American programming.

Online piracy is said to be the plague that has rotted the business models of the music, cinema and television industries. For this reason, it’s understandable that record companies and movie studios hunt down online pirates with a vengeance. However, there is another side to this. Just about anywhere where one lives in the civilized world, one can purchase the same music either online or offline, and watch the same films in the theatres as one’s friends and family who live in the United States of America, but when it comes to American television shows, international viewers are the unacknowledged and unappreciated children of the small-screen industry.

Even if our local stations broadcast earlier episodes of some of our favorite American TV shows (at least we will be ready when NBC’s Chuck returns next spring), that is simply not satisfactory when in some other countries, viewers can buy episodes online, or stream them straight to their computers. It was ironic that international viewers were able to watch President Obama’s inauguration online via live stream on HBO, but they are forbidden from watching their favorite television shows. In the midst of the fight for equality and “change”, political freedom and financial survival, the Big 3 American television stations – ABC, NBC, CBS – give lessons on ‘audience inequality’. Therefore, it should be no surprise that websites filled with torrents of pirated televised content thrive in our times.

Without a doubt there are legal and business-related issues to overcome, but in today’s world of technology and globalization, these things should be able to occur quickly. Now that advertising agencies, networks and other media companies are going to group together in order to change and supplement the Nielsen ratings system by adding online viewership and legal downloads, opening up to the global audience will revolutionize the television industry to its core, by dynamically changing how studios work, shows are financed, and advertising is placed. The globe is an untapped market now within the reach of the American entertainment industry.

Still, until the networks realize this and get on the ball, the lack of options will guide international viewers to illegal websites and networks. But if we add the political and social ramifications some American television programming can have on a number of the more fundamentalist countries, the US entertainment industries shouldn’t think of the practice of piracy as an act of sneakiness and theft, but as an act of civil disobedience.


Last 5 posts by Ilias Kountoupis

Last 5 posts by Ilias Kountoupis