Top Gear Notices Popularity of Heavily Torrented Show

In the latest episode of the BBC’s internationally popular motoring show Top Gear, a little dig at legacy broadcasters and distributors managed to sneak through to air. Front-man Jeremy Clarkson undoubtedly earned the dislike of industry groups in the UK when he lauded the popularity of one of their guests, despite the extremely limited availability of the guests work in the UK.

BBC’s Top Gear has a cult following worldwide, and one of their more popular segments is “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car”. For those that don’t watch, a celebrity of one stripe or another comes on, talks about various things including their car history, and then goes through a lap of the Top Gear circuit in a cheap small family car.

The star in this particular episode was Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, promoting his new movie, Need For Speed (based on the game), yet in the introduction, host Clarkson made some comments that might have had some content industry executives squirming.

If you can’t see the video (because the BBC has blocked it again) then here’s the relevant lines

“This is a big noise…
It is strange to have on a guest from a show that was never on British TV who’s now in a film that isn’t even out yet, and everyone’s screaming and yelling.”

While it’s not totally correct (the first two seasons were shown, before it was dropped for low viewing figures following a questionable scheduling decision) the show’s popularity in the UK comes from three places, DVD box sets, Netflix, and of course, online distribution (aka, torrents).

While Netflix’s decision to make them available to Brits hours after the US airing helped somewhat, they still only had 1.5M subscribers as of last summer, meaning the bulk of uk viewers came via other methods, a supposition supported by the figures at TorrentFreak, as it was the second most downloaded show of 2013.

breaking-bad-piracy-breakdown-dataDownloads were worldwide, but there were significant numbers in the UK as this graph from Australian coverage of TorrentFreak’s data shows.

Not that it’s hurt the bottom line any either. AmazonUK shows three breaking bad box sets in it’s top-20 DVD sales, 5 months after the last episode aired and 3 months after the DVDs were made available (with one box set having been in the top-100 for over a year)

So what does this mean? Well, when the likes of Jeremy Clarkson start noticing the disconnect, it means the politicians may not be far behind.