In an op-ed for The Hill this week producer Martha de Laurentiis became the latest industry heavyweight to come down hard on online piracy. She quoted statistics that Hannibal, on which she served as executive producer, was the fifth most-pirated show in 2013, and claimed the illegal viewing directly resulted in the low-ratings that led to cancellation for the NBC show.
With more than 2 million viewers watching our show illegally, it’s hard not to think online pirates were, at the very least, partly responsible for hundreds of crew members losing their jobs and millions of fans — who watched the show legitimately — mourning the loss of a beloved program.
There are some flaws to de Laurentiis’ argument. Hannibal was the fifth most pirated show for the spring of 2013, but not the whole year. According to Torrent Freak, who track such nefarious activity, Dexter claimed the fifth spot for the year, topped by The Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. That data only includes downloads however, so illegal streaming and downloads with cyberblockers probably put the number higher.
At its highest Hannibal attracted about 4.3 million viewers on NBC, so if a third of the audience is going uncounted that is a significant problem. But the show only hit numbers close to that high a few times, and by season three had dropped to an average viewership of 1.3 million. In it’s third season it was the second lowest-rated show in NBC’s lineup. So if (and that’s an iffy if) 2 million people were still pirating the show in it’s third season then yes, that’s a disaster. More likely the high piracy 2013 piracy numbers were due to initial curiosity during the show’s early episodes, and piracy fell off along with regular viewing.
This season 1 trailer blew people away:
If shows were renewed according to fan fervor Hannibal would have a six-season deal right now. Dedicated viewers and strong critical support have given the show a cult-status that holds promise for drawing more viewers if it’s ever able to land an Internet deal.
After the cancellation creator Bryan Fuller lobbied hard to get a streaming deal for season 4 on Netflix or Amazon. A pre-existing rights deal with Amazon precluded Netflix or Hulu from picking up the series and Amazon wanted to rush episodes into production faster than Fuller was ready. He’d been promoting his plan to layer in the character of Clarice Starling if he could obtain the character rights so his reticence to rush into production may have been related to those negotiations.
Seasons 1-3 are available for streaming on Amazon and if you have Prime, seasons 1 and 2 are free.
Whether piracy was at fault or not de Laurentiis is going to bat for the industry as a whole. She’s headed to an event at the Capitol this week to lobby for tighter restrictions that will make piracy more difficult.