Why are all these US TV shows being leaked?

Dexter. Terminator spin-off The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Weeds. Pushing Daisies. Brotherhood. American TV shows with one thing in common: they've just have season-opening episodes leaked onto the Internet...

Dexter. Reading the news about the episode leak...

So many American television programmes have been leaked in such a short space of time over the past week or two that’s perhaps it’s reasonable to now question why.

And we’re not talking just episode 15 or something of a show that’s accidentally slipped out of the locker: these are unaired pilots, or debut episodes for thus-far unbroadcasted seasons, that surely only a handful of people have access to.

In the case of Dexter, for instance, the official air date for season two is still two months away, yet the first two episodes are both being widely distributed, illegally, through BitTorrent sites.

Currently, the list of leaks, according to what we can find, looks like this:

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Dexter Season 2 Episode 1Dexter Season 2 Episode 2The Sarah Connor Chronicles pilotWeeds Season 3 Episode 1Weeds Season 3 Episode 2Brotherhood Season 2 Episode 1Brotherhood Season 2 Episode 2Californication Season 1 Episode 1Pushing Daisies Season 1 Episode 1

That’s quite a list, and a startling slice of some of the big hitters and proposed big hitters in the US TV schedules over the coming months,

So what’s happened? Well, there are a few theories.

Firstly, that this is just coincidence, and these have all been utterly illegally leaked without the knowledge of anyone at the respective studios. There’s a chance that these supposed DVD-quality leaks were from preview and promo discs that just got into the wrong hands.

Yet look at that list: there are nine episodes on there, and you wouldn’t wager against more to come. Also, note that we’re talking the first and second episodes of various shows’ seasons, almost a taster if you like to try and get people hooked in.

So perhaps, introducing theory two, that’s just what’s happened. Someone, somewhere, has decided that leaking early episodes is a great way to get your show some publicity, and to get it watched.

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It’s a theory that no one will ever come out and admit to, of course, but it’s interesting that unlike the leaks of Hostel Part II and Sicko a month or two back, there’s been a distinct absence of people coming out and condemning what’s happened. So perhaps it is all part of the modern day marketing plan. Yet to admit as much would be seen as condoning piracy.

Studios have, in the past, dabbled with taster DVDs of the first few episodes of a TV season, most recently when the first couple of episodes of 24 season six were released on disc to give people an early chance to see new stuff. The end result then, of course, was that someone got hold of the DVD early and leaked the episodes. Maybe there’s a case of if you can’t beat ‘em in there somewhere.

Whatever the reasoning, the current situation is inevitably that getting hold of these episodes is a breach of copyright somewhere along the line. But for our money, so many episodes being leaked in such a short space of time simply can’t be a coincidence. We’ll thus be interested to see what the next few days brings…