Piracy to blame for Ten slump: Scott

ABC chief executive Mark Scott says illegal downloads are responsible for some of Channel Ten’s disappointing ratings this year.

In a speech about the challenges that high-speed broadband is creating for broadcasters, Mr Scott noted that Ten’s suite of normally high rating US comedies had flopped this year. "To showcase the new 2012 ratings year on Ten, they had had held them back until several months after they were first broadcast to considerable fanfare in the US. Television networks have always done this in Australia," Mr Scott said at the Institute of a Broadband Enabled Society in Melbourne.

"But this year, Channel 10 found the audiences it had been expecting weren't there – they'd been and gone, online. They were good shows, easily found and watched within hours of their initial US broadcast. And there is no doubt that with its traditional younger demographic profile, a network like Ten is more vulnerable to this than other networks, but we‘re all vulnerable."

"Foxtel experienced the same missing audience problem with delayed screenings of programs like the latest series of Mad Men and The Newsroom – programs that had generated considerable media buzz months ago.

"But by the time they were shown here, it was not so much that the buzz had died down and that attention had moved on ... it was that many people in that expected audience had already watched the programs online."

Mr Scott's comments echo those of News Limited chief executive Kim Williams, who recently called for new online copyright laws to protect content owners from online piracy. Mr Williams is the former chief executive of Foxtel, in which News Limited has a 25 per cent stake.

Mr Scott agreed that rights holders need to be protected. The ABC recently negotiated a deal with the BBC to show the new series of Dr Who as soon as it finished screening for the first time in the UK — at 5.10am on Sunday mornings in Australia.

Mr Scott said 80,000 people streamed the show from iView on the first Sunday. "But if we hadn't put it up on iView, the ratings would have been down anyway – because it is reasonable to assume that many of those 180,000 would have found another way to watch the program before it was shown on ABC Television."

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