In a move aimed at reducing illegal streams and downloads that take away viewers from its broadcast channel and CWTV.com, The CW – the CBS and Warner Bros. joint venture channel aimed at 18 to 34 year-olds – is to accelerate the availability of its primetime programming on its website, shortening what had been a three-day delay to just eight hours.
The initiative – which begins March 15 – follows a test of the eight-hour gap that CW carried outwith some affiliates in four markets between October and January. There was no change in broadcast ratings in those markets and a slight increase on CWTV.com.
“It tells us that when you present next-day streaming, those who want to stream will be more predisposed to watching on CWTV.com or Hulu Plus than a pirate site,” Rick Haskins, exec VP of marketing and digital programmes at CW told Variety. “It also shows it didn’t really change the broadcast numbers.”
The extended window was imposed more than five years ago to help bolster the net’s C3 numbers -the metric that measures the ratings for average commercial minutes in live programming plus three days of digital video recorder playback.
Channel executives hope that broadcast ratings won’t decline, and if they do, that those viewers will watch via legal digital platforms instead of via P2P services such as BitTorrent.
The CW decided to trial the shortened delay after internal research revealed that about 20 per cent of all streams online of CW programming were of the illegal variety, with levels reaching 28 per cent-29 per cent for popular series such as Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl. Fifty per cent of that piracy occurred within three days of the premiere broadcast. The eight-hour window will bring CWTV.com in line with the window already in place for Apple’s iTunes and Hulu Plus.
To promote the initiative, the network will begin airing the same 10- and 15-second spots promoting the tagline ‘See it tonight, stream it tomorrow’ that it employed in local tests.