Spielberg’s The River hits UK iTunes 24-hours after US TV debut, will it curb piracy of the show?

The River ABC PosterPiracy has been in the news a lot recently, thanks to extensive coverage of both the SOPA and PIPA bills, and the ongoing saga of Megaupload.com.

Neither unpopular bills or the closing down of services also used for legitimate means are the solution to the problem though, so what is? While a complete solution may not even exist, there are steps that can be taken to cut down on the effects of piracy, provided someone is willing to put in the work.

While many automatically think piracy means films, television shows are just as popular, especially those US series that take an age to make it out of the country. Take Dexter for example. Season six has finished its first run on Showtime, but isn’t expected to play until spring 2012 in the UK. With season five recently released there on DVD, not everyone will be willing to wait.

The River

Someone at ABC has been thinking though, as it has been announced that its new show The River will be making its UK debut just 24-hours after it plays in the USA. But instead of playing on network television, it will be available for download through iTunes.

The River, a creepy drama that sounds like the oft-banned 80s gorefest Cannibal Holocaust, hasn’t been picked up by a UK network, and given its high-profile team — Steven Spielberg and Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli are both involved — it would be a prime candidate for pirates.

Simultaneous release schedules are nothing new, but despite being championed by many as a way to decrease piracy, still aren’t widely employed. The last high profile TV show, also by ABC, that abandoned a staggered release was Lost, when its finale broadcast simultaneously around the world.

Pricing for The River is reasonable too, as iTunes will be charging £2.49/$2.99 for an HD episode and £12.99/$20.99 for an HD season pass. Considering a Blu-ray season of Dexter costs upwards of £30 on release, this is very competitive.

A Divided Industry

There are outspoken advocates and enemies of the simultaneous release. The chief operating officer of Paramount Studios considers the system a big problem, arguing that it only makes higher quality pirated versions available sooner, while film critic Mark Kermode says it offers people the film they want, in the format they want, when they want to watch it.

Apple has recently made a bold move to try and revolutionize the text book, so how about they use their considerable influence to push studios, networks and distributors to offer more of their products across more iTunes stores at the same time. After all, it would be of financial benefit to all concerned, and ultimately, isn’t that what the piracy argument boils down to?

The River premieres on ABC on February 7 and hits iTunes February 8.