Are video pirates LOSING INTEREST in CBS’s new SHORT TREKS?

Have video pirates lost their enthusiasm for the new SHORT TREKS mini-episodes being released by CBS…and possibly for new Star Trek in general?  If so, then it’s a sorta good news/bad news situation for CBS.  The good news is that video piracy hurts the bottom line for CBS.  So if folks are downloading Discovery and Short Treks without paying a subscription fee (to either All Access or Netflix), that’s potentially money out of CBS’ pocket.  So less piracy is a GOOD thing, right?

Well, here’s the bad news.  Video piracy is also a barometer, of sorts.  Does decreased interest in Short Treks by pirates imply that the general public is also not interested?  And what makes me say that video pirates are losing interest in Short Treks in the first place?

It all began early last month while I was having dinner with a friend (who shall remain nameless) who illegally downloads Star Trek: Discovery and Short Treks.  For the record, I personally do NOT do this, and I subscribed to CBS All Access from October 2017 through February 2018.  Here’s my e-mail receipt from them…

So just to be clear, I am NOT endorsing video piracy in any way.  This blog is simply looking at an existing trend from a journalistic perspective.  Video piracy (or any kind of digital piracy) is illegal and should not be attempted by anyone reading my blogs.

And now that that’s out of the way, back to my story…

At the time we’d gotten together, I’d only watched the first of the three Short Treks episodes released thus far.  So I asked my friend what he’d thought of the other two…figuring he’d already downloaded them illegally.  Turns out he hadn’t.

“Yeah, it’s funny,” he told me.  “The whole first season was usually up on The Pirate Bay within a day of being broadcast.  The episodes were always easy to find.  But so far, only the first Short Trek has been uploaded, and I can’t find the other two episodes…even a month later!”

He took me over to his computer to show me what he was talking about, and I grabbed a couple of screen caps.  He’d searched for “Star Trek Discovery” and got this really long list (204 matches)…

Then he searched for “Short Trek” and got the following (only 2 matches, both of them for “Runaway”, the first Short Treks episode)…

Was this for real???  Had video pirates so completely lost interest in Star Trek that they weren’t bothering with Short Treks at all?  If so, this was definitely blog-worthy!

But I needed to know more, and as it turned out, there was a LOT I did not yet know about this underworld of what is known as “peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing” (the illegal kind).

The first thing I needed to do was find more pirates.  My friend is only one guy, and he admits to being a bit of a novice when it comes to this sort of thing.  He uses The Pirate Bay because it’s the biggest site, and it’s the only one he knows about.  (I later discovered that Google blocks search results for many illegal file sharing services, so they’re hard to find if one doesn’t already know where to look.)

I reached out to the Fan Film Forum community on Facebook to ask if anyone was pirating Discovery and Short Treks rather than paying for it on a subscription service.  I assured everyone that all respondents would be kept 100% anonymous.  Eight people responded (including a few I knew pretty well but didn’t know were pirating).  Of those, about half couldn’t help me because they weren’t downloading Short Treks and couldn’t give me a comparison what what happening during Discovery season one and now.

The others, however, were quite enlightening.


Are video pirates really losing interest in Trek?

I won’t bury the lead.  Yes, there does seem to be a falloff recently in video pirates providing copies of Short Treks for others to download.  BUT!!!  It’s a bit more complicated than that…

First, let’s discuss The Pirate Bay (or “TPB” as it’s affectionately known).  Although currently the leading P2P sharing site, it’s in danger of losing that distinction.  One of its major problems began in 2009 when the Swedish founders of this site were convicted of criminal copyright infringement in a Swedish court.  And even though they spent only minimal time in prison, the site itself was shut down and seized multiple times (imagine that!) and banned in certain countries.  That said, the Internet can be a persistent little hydra, and TPB always seems to pop again with new web addresses to keep operating.

However, the intermittent and unexpected shutdowns are taking their toll on TPB’s popularity.  One of my pirates (I’ll call him “Pirate A” from the U.K.) said that TPB “…has had a lot of downtime lately as a site. So a lot of people are migrating away from it.  I usually use a site called 1337x.  But I also limit myself to 2 or 3 uploaders that are ‘bigger’ groups. I get all my movies from either ETRG (extra torrent release group) or YTS (yify torrents). For TV shows I ONLY use ETTV(extra torrent tv). They usually have 100 seeders for every show.”

Let’s pause there and unpack that a little.  When Pirate A says “bigger groups,” what he means is that there are groups of pirates that gather together to turn pirating into a money-making business…and a major one at that!  (What…you didn’t think pirates share stuff out of the goodness of their hearts, do you?  They’re PIRATES!)

Pirate B (from Germany) provided this eye-opening explanation of how piracy can be quite lucrative if you do it right…

The people who actually pirate stuff and release it for free on bittorrent and the one-click-hosters are called “release groups.”   They actually buy the DVDs and Blu-Rays and even set up cameras in cinemas. Sometimes the cameras are even set up by the owner of the cinema.  Crazy, right?

As you might have already guessed, they do this because they earn really good money from pirating this stuff.  “How?” you may ask?   Well, pages like “The Pirate Bay” earn 6-digit numbers on advertisement every MONTH!!  In order to keep it that way, they need to be the ones with the most stuff, and the ones who got it first. So they pay the release groups to upload the stuff they have to “The Pirate Bay.”  And the higher the demand, the more is cashed out to the release groups.

Wow…I had no idea!

So when Pirate A talks about getting his stuff only from the “bigger groups,” he’s referring to these piracy “businesses” which grab and provide either bit torrents or one-click hosting (an alternative to bit torrents) copies of TV shows and movies—and probably music, ebooks, software, etc.

Pirate B added one final tidbit…

So you might already see where this leads to: you can only find stuff that is popular among the Generation Y and Z, as these are the people that have grown up with the internet, know its potential and where to get stuff.

And what does that mean for the “Short Treks”? Right, they are not very popular, so you can’t earn money on them and that’s why they are hard to find.

Pirate A confirms that Short Treks are harder to find…although not impossible.  He reported to me that “Runaway” (the first Short Treks episode) currently has 500 seeds.  A “seeder” is someone providing a source file for others to copy from.  The second episode, “Calypso,” has 270 seeds (when he checked), and the third episode, “The Brightest Star” (which had just come out), has about 400 seeds.  In contrast, the latest episode of The Flash has nearly 2,700 seeds .

Now, for comparison, Pirate A reported that, right now, season one of Discovery has about 200 seeds per episode on average.  But “…you get a lot of seeders right when an episode is released, and then it drops off as new stuff comes out.”  So it’s not really fair to measure Short Treks to season one of Discovery right now…and I don’t have the seeder count for Discovery from a year ago when those episodes were first airing.


So is this bad news for CBS?

Well, according to Pirate B, low demand for a show results in low supply of seeds, and Short Treks is relatively low.  And while CBS would surely prefer that there were no pirating going on whatsoever, if piracy is inevitably gonna happen no matter what, then they’d probably prefer that their shows be “in demand” rather than generating low interest.

However, as Pirate A pointed out to me, this isn’t simply a case of few people wanting to see Short Treks.  There’s a lot more going on here.  While Discovery was carried on CBS All Access in America, Space TV in Canada, and on Netflix internationally, Short Treks is airing ONLY on All Access.  And it’s not really being advertised internationally, as CBS has no reason to spend money touting a show to people who won’t be able to watch it anyway.  Netflix isn’t advertising Short Treks because they’re not offering it.  So as strange as it may sound, many folks in Europe and elsewhere might not even be aware of Short Treks’ existence!  And that, of course, would certainly explain the lowered demand.

But obviously, at least SOME Trekkies outside of America probably wanna see Short Treks, right?  Well, that leads into another interesting wrinkle, which Pirate B explained…

Coming from a German perspective, the fact that “Short Treks” episodes are not on Netflix makes them even more unpopular, as they can only be watched in English.  But people in Europe are used to watching American TV shows synchronized with their native language.  In case of Discovery, Netflix is actually paying for the language synchronization in Europe—and they usually do this only for their own shows, as movies will be synchronized by the studios and TV shows by the TV network owning the free-TV rights to that show.

So let me conclude: No network station to synchronize the “Short Treks,” no Netflix, no advertisement for the show… nothing.  It’s like the whole world, except for the US and Canada, doesn’t know the “Short Treks” actually exists.
And that’s why they are so hard to find on pirate websites.


What are the potential repercussions for CBS?

Well, this all might be much ado about nothing.  Sure, the rest of the world might not know about Short Treks because Netflix isn’t carrying the mini-episodes, but Netflix viewers were never the intended target audience.  From what I’ve been told, CBS wanted to get something up quickly and cheaply primarily as a pitch to All Access subscribers who currently watch NFL Football.

Huh?

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the vast majority of viewers of All Access, according to a source at CBS Interactive, are reportedly watching NFL football games.  Of the 2 or 2.5 million All Access subscribers, only about 250K-500K of them watched Discovery episodes last year.  But three or four times as many (I don’t have a specific number) watch NFL Football during the regular season from late summer through the end of December.  The question for CBS: how do we convert these sports fans who aren’t watching Discovery into Star Trek fans?

The challenge this year was timing.  Discovery, unavoidably, would not be able to air DURING football season (as it did in 2017).  In fact, with a January 17, 2019 premiere date, football on All Access would be all but over, meaning those football subscribers might be tuning out (or unsubscribing) until next September without any motivation to stick around for Discovery.

So Short Treks was a way to give these sports fans a quick taste of the new Star Trek series without forcing them to commit to binge-watching an entire 15-episode first season.  And of course, if CBS could also bring a few hundred thousand Trekkies back to re-subscribe a few months early, that’s just icing on the cake.

[Side note: the latter strategy didn’t work with me.  I watch football on network TV, and I still haven’t re-subscribed to All Access yet, which is why you have’t seen reviews of the second or third Short Treks on this blog site.]

I suppose the bigger question remains: will this trend of decreased demand/supply of pirated Short Treks continue into season two of Discovery?  Obviously, if the problem is simply just the lack of international viewers of Short Treks, their ignorance of the show’s existence, and the unavailability of the shorts in their native languages, then the numbers should bounce back quickly once the next season of Discovery begins.

On the other hand, if the piracy numbers continue to be lower than season one, this might be the closest we fans have to a “Nielsen Rating” for the subscriber-only Star Trek: Discovery.  What an interesting way to “read the tea leaves” when CBS won’t tell us themselves, huh?

I’m planning to stay in touch with my new pirate friends to see what happens after season two begins on January 17.  And I’ll keep you posted!


Late-breaking update: The Orville and piracy

Pirate B just reported from Germany that the season premiere of The Orville (which won’t air in Germany until next July) was available on one of the largest Germany “share” websites barely four hours after its first airing on Fox USA.  He doesn’t use bit torrent, so there aren’t seeds to count, but he did confirm that no Short Treks episodes are currently listed. I asked about Discovery episodes from season one…

Season One is easy to find…all episodes are up. The “Short Treks,” however, are hard to find. They are not up on the major sites, so I need to check smaller, lesser known pages.

So this is interesting because The Orville is obviously being posted by pirates in English, not German. So this does potentially validate the theory that Short Treks is in low demand not because of language/translation issues but more because many Europeans don’t know it exists. And that could be good news for CBS if it means there isn’t a drop-off in enthusiasm for new Star Trek in general.

We’ll know more in about two weeks…stay tuned!

29 thoughts on “Are video pirates LOSING INTEREST in CBS’s new SHORT TREKS?”

  1. Jesus, “I don’t condone this”…….but here’s where to go and how to do it it YOU want to. Complete with site names and letting them know it’s available within 4 hours! Irresponsible article at best. But from the guy who is behind Small Access, I am not shocked. Oh and on the eve of a new Short Trek…….let me guess, you had NO IDEA!

    1. I didn’t provide any direct links, and all of the sites mentioned are suppressed by Google search results. In other words, no one who doesn’t already know how to find these sites will be able to find them using only my blog.

      Do you feel better now, Ken?

  2. My spouse and I waited until ST:Discovery Season 1 was released on Blu-ray to watch it, and agreed that, although maybe it’s better than no Trek at all, it’s not very good Trek. We will be selling our Blu-ray of ST:Discovery on eBay later this month, and have zero interest in “Short Treks” (unless they’re released as a Blu-ray/DVD compilation or legally come out from behind CBS All Access’ paywall.
    As to The Orville season 2, we had switched our Dish Network subscription to the “Flex Pack” without local channels, so one way we could have gotten access to it would have been to add the “Locals Pack” for however many months The Orville season 2 would be airing. Since we also have an Amazon Prime membership, however (including Prime Video), we were able to buy The Orville season 2. We still have to wait for each new episode to be released, of course, but we’ll to able to watch them whenever we want and as often as we want. (We also recently bought The Orville season 1 on DVD (no Blu-ray available, apparently), even though we had previously watched each episode when first broadcast, and are binge-watching our way through Season 1 again (1 episode/night) while waiting for the new episodes of Season 2 to be released.)

    1. Catherine you can also look into just getting a Digital Antenna for your local stations if you are able to watch the shows at the time of airing. This can save ya a few bucks.

      1. Chris, I couldn’t find your response in the comments thread earlier, so I replied via a separate comment. Just scroll towards the end of the comments, and you should find it.

  3. You are not the first person to come up with the idea of using the popularity of Pirate Torrents as a Barometer of how popular the show is. The producers of GOT were reportedly delighted by being the number one pirated show.

    As to piracy doing harm to the industry well whilst not defending it, it is not the scourge that the Movie and TV Studios make out. There is a lot of TV which airs for free but people simply download it so they can watch it at their leisure now admittedly that does affect the viewing figures but if the show is good then People dont want to wait for it to become available and will watch it “Live” Thus actually being good for the studios. Similarly with movies If a film is good well you might check it out but you want to go see it on a big screen rather than the rather poorer cam version.

    Lastly on the pro side there is a major difference between well I will watch it because it’s free and I will watch it and pay for it. Sadly a lot of stuff put out by the studios just are not worth it. However they would have you think that every download costs them money that someone would actually pay for it when the truth is if it was not for free they just wouldn’t bother.

    Having said all that it is only fair to point out that especially in the case of DVD and Blu-Ray releases it definitely hurts sales however the question is how badly as pointed out not every person that downloads something would of gone out and brought it as the studios would have you believe.

    If the studios want to make more money and why not they are a business after all they would make more if they stopped trying to preach some social agenda that a lot of people just are not interested in and just get on with making good entertaining content. Their bottom line would be a lot healthier than moaning about how piracy is killing the industry.

  4. For would-be pirates, they thank you for help pointing the way to the (pirate) ship
    For pirates, they’d have you walk the plank for calling out their sources (like the hate the internet had for Lars Ulrich).
    For everyday people, they don’t care.

    Which was your article written for?

    1. I just wrote it, Vinnie. I thought it was interesting when I discovered that pirates might not be uploading Short Treks (or at least not nearly as much as Discovery). It seemed like something worth following up on, and so I did…one of the advantages of being your own boss on a blog. 🙂

  5. In Spain, where I live, Star Trek is not broadcast on any station, and I’ve seen the 4 Shorts,, you do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that I’ve seen them pirated, subtitled by the fans, and I can tell you that the difficulty has been increasing to each episode ,,, the 4 has been really difficult to see.
    On the other hand I saw the STD series on Netflix, Paying the corresponding fee ,,,,, but after reading I was stung by curiosity and in the same download pages it is relatively easy to find episodes of STD, that if, with few sources, there are many more sources for an episode of Voyager or DS9 than for one of Discovery and no point of comparison with Orville, the latter is the one with the most sources ,,,,
    You can post this if you want and if you are curious about how we managed the fans at the borders of the empire just ask, happy to be your informant 🙂

      1. It was just a joke ,,, If hollywwod is Coruscant here we would be in Tatoonie ,,, it was just that,

  6. Honestly I have no interest in paying OR pirating STD. Maybe it just makes the statement that eveb pirates have standards for quality

  7. I have to explain what DISCOVERY is if I mention it to non-fan friends and acquaintances. Is word about DISCOVERY effectively getting out?

    1. Hard to say. “Star Trek” is a household word(s), but not as much as it used to be. Simply saying “Discovery” is like saying “Half-Blood Prince.” Yes, it’s a Harry Potter book/movie, but leave out the “Harry Potter” part, and most people won’t know what you’re talking about.

  8. Why would people want to pirate The Flash, you can go to the CWs website and watch it for free……no need to pirate……

    But it’s simple supply and demand. I had a buddy who pirated stuff but he’s been dead almost a decade now and so it’s not just Y and Z but others also.

    1. Dead men tell no tales…at least, that’s what the pirates like to say! 🙂

      BTW, I think Flash is being pirated by folks internationally. The CW website blocks access outside of the U.S.

      1. The Flash like all the recent DC-Comics shows ( Arrow, Supergirl, Legends Of Tomorrow, Gotham etc. ) is “heavily” pirated and becomes available usually with less than an hour of the end of the 1st airing. On another of those scandinavian site that seem to specialize in TV shows ( guess the pillaging Viking blood still runs in some of these ppl! )
        The same is/was true for all the Marvel Universe shows on TV and streams . With Netflix’s Marvel-based shows ending one by one and Disney about to recuperate most titles and launch new ones for its incoming Streaming service we’ll see if Mickey will better police its property but having watched how they already failed to do so with Star Wars related material…..I doubt it will change.
        If I may add a point , sometimes the big media corporations are their own worst enemy when it comes to encouraging Piracy. Paramount/CBS for example were so eager to squeeze every penny they could from Star Trek fans that for decades they practiced a pricing policy that kept ST merchandise way more expansive than other media properties on the market. In later years FOX tried the same policy with The X-Files , at least it only took FOX 10 years to realize its mistake .( sarcasm alert). It probably helped that X-Files were in the 1st generation of shows were internet allowed a certain amount of immediate fan feedback (remember those NewsGroups anyone ?? )
        A very recent example came at ABC/Disney of all place, they came closer than anyone I can think of to encourage piracy when they left the North American fans of Agents of SHIELD with no “legal” local “reasonably priced “sources of DVD or BluRays for season 2 . They litterally gave people the choice of ordering a “special boxset” ( that was anything but special) at more than twice the price of a regular season OR take a chance and order official DVDs from the UK . Even with transport and tx it came $25 cheaper in Canada to order in the UK since the “special boxset” was only released in Cdn months after the US. What do you think happened ? Downloads exploded and High-end Bootleg DVD sets came out of China in less time than it took to spell A.B..C. An A.O.S. piracy industry was born. Even now 4 years later as A.O.S is about to begin it’s 6th season and had it’s 7th already approved, it has become easier ( and cheaper) to find the Bootleg products on respectable site like AMAZON than buy legally. So yes they can scream bloody murder and ho-hum and play the moral high ground all they want, but maybe putting their house in order 1st and actually caring about the people who watch the show could help. That’s nothing I didn’t point out to both ABC and Disney at the time, not that it helped.
        Now I realize all that uhhh..ranting may make me sound like some big time pirate , but that just not true, I’m neither Jean Lafitte nor the conveniently blind Mayor of New-Orleans who bought contraband from him, and while I admit to the occasional download , nothing I “get” I couldn’t have watched normally on my sat-TV plan. I do it mostly for convenience because I prefer to keep my DVR-hard drive for sport events and those are memory devouring ogres. But I can’t help but wonder how people for whom money is tight manage. I guess that’s why pirates never really disappear.

  9. @Chris Ross, I looked into digital antennas when we first considered dumping our Dish Network subscription in the fall. We live far enough away from local TV stations that we’d have to get a pretty powerful antenna to pull in their signals — and hire someone to mount it on the roof, since my spouse and I are neither nimble nor physically fit enough to be climbing 2nd-story ladders anymore. (Although even an antenna mounted in a 2nd-floor window facing the direction where the nearest local stations are would be an improvement over the “rabbit ears” we used back in the ’90s to kinda/sorta watch ST:Voyager when it wasn’t available on cable TV!) The Dish Flex Pack is a compromise between our old Dish subscription and going totally streaming services + antenna, and has reduced our monthly Dish bill by about 1/3 without having to change/add any equipment.

  10. Interesting Jonathan, I’d still like to see something resembling real numbers.

    It would be funny if, in contrast to Game of Thrones, STD was the least pirated show ever.

    It’s just a shame that we are forced to look at these things in order to get information.

    I get people pirate stuff, but it’s pretty cheap to just buy it on Itunes, Currently, STD is #71 on Blue Ray on Amazon. Still no info from TheNumbers – maybe in another week or two. And I haven’t been able to find any ranking numbers from Apple as of yet.

    For me personally, I’m just not interested in buying it. There are too many other shows completing for my streaming $$$…

  11. I want to say first as some who works in cyber security I and a few others monitor torrent sites for trends and content. Not to turn in those pirating but more for find new bugs in the wild.
    I note that discovery is one of those show that is slow to post and even slower to share. the new shorts seem to be very limited in who posting and sharing. when i saw your post on this I looked up stats on some of the sites and the short and the first season is very very low in file listing.
    First i thought maybe there is a reason for this security wise. Nope the show is very easy to get it just that no one finds the content really good enough to share.
    I think CBS is at a lost to what they doing when a show is so bad that it isn’t in the top 100 you know you have a bad show. I mean when they had Supergirl on CBS it was in the top 5 shows and stayed there . When moves to the new network it drop some but came back up .
    Many TV show are download watched and dumped interesting fact in a survey done in the last two year 98% of those download shows if they find the show is great buy the DVD/Blu-ray box sets. That means they show gains income even with the pirating. they do save the shows as hard drive space is a big things and burning them is not permanent way to save them at best 5 years on burnt DVD/blu-ray. Same for movies they are more likely to buy the dvd/blu-ray as they want the extras that do not get posted. Discovery isn’t selling I look at sales in stares and they are on the mark down list IF they shoes is even carrying it. I not seen it but for Walmart once. I sure other shops do have it but it not listing well.
    I have seen the Shorts and well they not that stellar The first one was a bit like “REALLY?” Like all that would happen with out Someone not noting it. Second one well kind of like the ship is part where and for how long? Again REALLY? the last one was good and it seem to be an interesting spin on things but again not that great. The last is why are they doing shorts ? Note they are being done with a 14 mins and with the guideline that they set. But again why are they doing them. In that interview withe the guy from CBS that said he wrote the guidelines said ” Leave the eps making to us you fans can make your short within the guidelines” or some like that but this was stated. Since Fans stop making much of any ST short or eps the PR for Trek is down. so I guessing someone thought” well if the fans will not make short or think 15 mins is too short let show them” they are short they are based on the current show but are they really worth it? another will be airing Today. I may ask my friend to DVR it so can watch it as find it online would be wast of time right now.

    I will say that a lot of the fan made shorts and eps and all ARE on Torrent sites and shared a lot. as well. that saying a ton on What fans are doing vs the network and studio.

  12. Interesting article to say the least, and I kind of agree. Seeing what is available and being seeded on P2P or torrent sites can be an indicator of how popular a show is, however what I have seen is that is more with pure visual mediums ie TV or Movies. When it comes to other forms of entertainment you can still find a lot of older or even hard to find books and albums.

    Just a quick question since you mentioned Orville in your update. What do you think of the Critics sudden turn around on their reviews. Looking at RT Season 2 is listed at a surprising 100% that is way up from the 27% that they gave the first season?

    1. Ironically, many fans that I talked to felt that the premiere episode of season two was a little blah…with each main character getting a minor story and no real big action sequence to draw in those NFL sports fans. It wasn’t a bad episode, to be sure. But it wasn’t one of their best either.

      As for the Rotten Tomatoes 100% rating, that’s based on only 9 reviews. Season one had 48 reviews. So I’m guessing that a different set of reviewers is reviewing the series now, with few of the original detractors still chiming in.

  13. I was forced to pay 6 bucks to watch the 1st season of STD because I didn’t finish watching it in the time allotted… I wasn’t impressed… I knew about the “Short Treks”, but I wasn’t impressed with STD, to begin with so missing “Short Treks” was no big deal… It’s a pity really, I Love Star Trek, but this isn’t Star Trek… Just my opinion of course…

  14. Funny enough no one uses TPB anymore and if you are you are behind on the times. RARBG, Limetorrets, ETTV, and plenty of more contemporary fresh torrent sites have 1080p and lowers releases of all Short Treks and Discovery released in a timely manner.

    You say it’s a batometer but use a site that is bleeding users and is constantly down. TorrentFreak said Star Trek Discovery was the 5th most downloaded show of 2017. Perhaps your friend should update his torrent preferences.

  15. I had to use “creative methods” in order to watch the Short Treks, as CBSAA isn’t available over here and Netflix doesn’t have them, but had no problem whatsoever in finding them…

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