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CBS blackout sparks rise in TV show piracy

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Viewers look elsewhere for their favorite shows

Time Warner Cable logo (1020)
Time Warner Cable logo (1020)

CBS's block on Time Warner Cable (TWC) customers is less than a week old and already the blackout is fuelling a rise in TV show piracy. TorrentFreak reports that the percentage of illegal downloads rose substantially in the week since it went dark, as piracy rates for popular CBS show Under The Dome increased by 34 percent over the course of one weekend. As downloads went up, the show unsurprisingly saw its lowest viewing figures this season.

10.9 percent of downloads came from blackout regions

Piracy continues to be a major thorn in the side of rights-holders as internet users take to Bittorrent and other file-sharing services to download TV shows immediately after they have aired. The study comes after CBS and TWC failed to reach an agreement on retransmission fees that allow the cable operator to carry CBS programming. Both cable and online broadcasts were blocked, leading viewers to seek alternative means to watch their favorite TV shows.

TorrentFreak sampled Bittorrent downloads in affected TWC regions, including Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. The publication was unable to differentiate between TWC subscribers and people using different services but did note that 10.9 percent of downloads for Under The Dome came from blackout regions, while piracy rates in one of the biggest affected markets — New York City — more than doubled. For now, negotiations are ongoing and CBS continues to block transmissions. CBS has labelled TWC's a la carte proposal "a sham," while Senator Ed Markey has written to acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn to call for an investigation into the blackout.