Skip navigation links
Our organisation
Our people
Our track record
Corporate resources
Policy and research
Press centre

Piracy an increasing problem for UK TV and film industries 

28 August 2009

A study to be presented at the Edinburgh Television Festival reveals that the TV industry in the UK is facing dramatic digital disruption and huge piracy problems just as the Music Industry has done over the last decade.  

With increasing use of illegal file sharing sites offering individual programmes, whole series and feature films the industry could lose millions of pounds not only from lost sales, but from lost subscriptions and forsaken advertising revenues.

Key findings reveal that:

  • Piracy has hit the recorded music industry hard with sales shrinking to 1994 levels and is spreading rampantly to TV and Film
  • Popular UK show Top Gear is consistently one of the most illegally swapped shows, especially in the US.
  • Charging for television programmes that had been free leads to a significant spike in illegal downloads.
  • Millions of television viewers now access free, unauthorised versions of favourite shows and this is beginning to replace standard viewing hours.  
  • Top illegal TV swaps included Desperate Housewives, 24 and Prison Break whilst top films included Slumdog Millionaire and Twilight. 

Will Page, Chief Economist PRS for Music said, “The music industry was the first to fully feel the force of digital disruption.  It is important for the film and television industries to understand and learn from the experience of the music business and to look not just at possible lost value, but the opportunities that digital distribution can bring.”  

Eric Garland Chief Executive of Big Champagne commented: “Millions of television viewers now access free, unauthorised versions of favourite shows at least some of the time.   

This is a socially acceptable form of casual piracy - and it is replacing viewing hours."


The results will be presented at 9.30am Saturday at the Edinburgh International TV Festival. “What TV can learn from Music’s Mistakes” by Will Page, Chief Economist PRS for Music, Eric Garland Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Big Champagne Media Measurement & Peter Jenner President Emeritus, International Music Managers Forum.

Hosted by Rory Cellan-Jones, Industry Correspondent BBC News.

Most Popular Film Torrents
Watchmen; 16,906,452
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; 13, 133, 137
Yes Man; 13,038,364
Twilight; 11,632,645
Fast and Furious; 10,613,668
Gran Torino; 9,880,700
Marley and Me; 9,099,219
Slumdog Millionaire; 8,840,884
Bolt; 8,690,633
Australia; 8,628,012

Most Popular TV Torrents
Heroes; 54,562,012
Lost; 51,151,396
24; 34,119,093
Prison Break; 29,283,591
House; 26,277,954
Fringe; 21,434,755
Desperate Housewives; 21,378,412
Grey's Anatomy; 19,916,775
Gossip Girl; 19,706,870
Smallville; 19,598,999



Contact us

Press Enquiries

Coral Williamson
Communications Executive

Stefania Pavlou
Communications Manager, Media Relations

+44 (0)20 3741 4777

Marketing Enquiries

Ben Dancer
Marketing Executive


PRS Big Numbers
Follow us on M Magazine Twitter Facebook Linked In YouTube
© PRS for Music