Last week Fox made good on its promise to delay availability of its shows on Hulu for 8 days for anyone who couldn’t “authenticate” that they were somehow paying for Fox. Currently outside of the Hulu Plus subscription service, I think the only MSO participating in authentication is Dish Network, but Fox is trying to line up other MSOs.
It’s never too early to be annoyed when convenience is impaired, and if you’re angry about the delays I’ve got no quibble. What drives me batty is when the trades and other media outlets hop aboard the crazy train predicting lots of doom based on only a little bit of data. Yep, TorrentFreak reported that illegal downloading of last week’s episodes of Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef in the U.S. increased by 114% and 189% respectively. I don’t really have a quibble with Torrent Freak either, the numbers are eye catching if not eye popping and TorrentFreak at least allowed that some of the bump for MasterChef might have been due to it being its finale.
But while it’s never to early for consumers to complain, it’s way too early to call the move a bust from a business standpoint. The problem I had with every story and e-mail I saw on the topic is they all failed to point out a couple of things. One is that 189% of a small number is still a small number. The scale we’re talking about here is basically the equivalent of a low-rated cable show jumping from a 0.1 adults 18-49 rating to a 0.3 adults 18-49 rating. Triple digit gains, but not really meaningful in the absolute.
More importantly, Fox saw season highs for Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef with last week’s episodes and had its largest summer Monday audience with the advertiser coveted adults 18-49 in over four years. In terms of total viewers Fox had its best Tuesday of the summer with the two hour MasterChef finale last week.
If Glee’s TV audience shrinks by half and piracy is up 3000%, that’s a big problem for Fox. But since Fox makes the overwhelming bulk of its money on TV advertising, even if piracy is up triple digits, if the ratings are up too, that’s hardly bad news for Fox.