08.39 Europe/London, August 24, 2011 By Robert Briel

Since August 15, the US Fox network has limited next-day streaming of its shows on Hulu to paying customers of approved cable and satellite DTH distributors only. According to the Torrent Freak website, the move has resulted in a massive increase in illegal online viewing.

“One of the main motivations for people to download and stream TV shows from unauthorised sources is availability. If fans can’t get a show through legal channels they turn to pirated alternatives,” the website notes.

Fox has decided to stop next-day streaming in order to appease its current – paying – distribution partners and broadcast affiliates. These distribution partners have been complaining to broadcasters that offering next-day streaming on services such as Hulu undermines their business model.

Other broadcasters including Disney’s ABC and ESPN and Time Warner’s CNN are contemplating similar moves. Their programming – like Fox’s – will become available for online streaming, but with an eight-day window.

After a week and a half, the net result seems to be an explosive growth in piracy viewing. Over the last week Torrent Freak tracked two Fox shows on BitTorrent to see if there was an upturn in the number of downloads compared to the previous weeks, and the results are as expected. For both Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef the download numbers have surged.

During the first five days, the number of downloads from the US for the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen increased by 114% compared to the previous three episodes. For MasterChef the upturn was even higher with 189% more downloads from the US, according to Torrent Freak.