After the unfortunate losses for Expendables 3 after it was leaked last summer, there’s heightened concern that prerelease piracy will become a common problem as connectivity and access speeds increase. Those concerns are becoming a reality, as the pilot for CBS series Supergirl has been leaked a full five months before its official air date.

Variety reports that the episode had been accessed more than 120,000 times in the early hours of Friday morning, a number we can expect to skyrocket once the holiday weekend kicks in and fans have an extra day to seek out the episode.

The series stars Melissa Benoist as the eponymos heroine and has generated significant interest from fans of the genre. On the back of several popular superhero movies, television series like ABC’s Agents of Shield and Netflix original Daredevil are attracting a lot of attention.

Supergirl lines up to continue that trend, and a first look video on YouTube (below) has racked up more than 11 million views at the time of writing. Whether or not that continues depends on how widely the pilot leak spreads and how it disrupts the network’s planned promotional build-up.

 

While piracy is far from a new problem for Hollywood, prerelease piracy is something that has remained a looming threat. Leaks and unfinished works have been a reality for musicians and labels for as long as MP3 downloads have been around, but the sheer file size and limited download speeds have helped limit video content from widespread leaks.Those barriers have waned in recent years, however, leading to a rise in torrent activity and streaming piracy sites. Prerelease piracy adds to a long list of content theft fronts for the industry, perhaps the most damaging to date.

Leaks are all about timing. Here we see organized groups competing to see who can steal and spread a show the quickest, long before it is complete in terms of roll-out and promotion. Worse yet, these piracy rings are actively focused on stealing work from the hands of creators, creating competition for future titles that will only help the phenomenon to grow.

If a movie or TV series makes it to release, at least its promotional plans have been given room to build anticipation and viewers have a choice to make between legitimate channels and piracy sites. In an ideal world there would only be the former, but we continue to see pirates adapt to new technology and position themselves against creators, so it’s a reality we must face.

Prerelease piracy makes the decision even tougher for the viewer, as they have only one route to watch the desired content at that time. Even if they want to compensate the creator by paying a subscription fee, renting, buying, or even just watching an ad, they will have to have the patience to do so. With so much content now available at the touch of a screen, waiting is not something that a generation raised online is used to. It is, however, part of the creative process, building awareness of the production and generating conversation among fans that makes the eventual viewing experience even better. Early leaks destroy this experience, fragmenting interest and potentially destroying a series before it gets off the ground.

We all know how hard producers, creative talent and the cast work on any given series, with the competition and desire to get picked up high for any pilot. Early viewing figures are all important indicators of how popular a series is and go a long way to determining whether or not subsequent seasons are commissioned. If fans choose to spread that viewing across the summer and fail to tune in this fall, Supergirl will come back down to earth with a bump, rather than soaring on to the second season that pre-leak indicators suggest the series could have.

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