The Day TV Died

October 18th, 2004 is the day TV died. That evening, British satellite broadcaster SkyOne — part of NEWS Corp’s BSkyB satellite broadcasting service — ran the premiere episode of the re-visioned 70s camp classic Battlestar Galactica. (That episode, “33,” is one of the best hours of drama ever written for television.) The production costs for Battlestar Galactica were underwritten by two broadcast partners: SkyOne in the UK, and the SciFi Channel in the USA. SciFi Channel programers had decided to wait until January 2005 (a slow month for American television) to begin airing the series, so three months would elapse between the airing of “33” in the UK, and its airing in the US. Or so it was thought. The average viewer of the SciFi network is young and decidedly geeky. They are masters of media; they can find ways to get things they shouldn’t have. Thus, a few hours after airing on SkyOne, “33” was available for Internet download. No news there. A new peer-to-peer file sharing technology, BitTorrent, was employed to share the quarter-gigabyte audiovisual files of “33”.

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