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The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on television, but that doesn’t always translate to the greatest numbers for AMC. Online piracy has been spilling episodes onto the internet before they even air, lowering revenue and stopping some downloaders from bothering to watch shows live. Now, AMC is taking action to discourage pirates from wanting to get their cyber-hands on original content, and they don’t need a crossbow or sidearm to do it. Rather, the network is adding watermarks to content that will allow AMC to trace the source of the copies back to the pirate.
The watermark system won’t prevent episodes from being illegally copied and shared online, according Variety. The very real threat of leaks being traced back to the source, however, could be enough to deter pirates from distributing the content. Considering that most leaks reportedly come from international distributors and their subcontractors who perform services post-production (such as language dubbing), the watermarks work as clues to who leaked the footage which in turn may significantly cut down on piracy.
There’s no denying that piracy absolutely needs to be cut down for AMC after the last couple of years. In 2014, Breaking Bad was still highly pirated despite actually coming to an end in 2013, and The Walking Dead was the second most pirated show on TV. Last year saw The Walking Dead take the #2 spot yet again; it was beat out only by Game of Thrones.
Of course, Game of Thrones has been subject to some major leaks, as well. The first four episodes of Season 5 made it online before airdate. HBO chose to deal with the mishap by making the switch from distributing hard copies of screeners for critics to making them available via an online streaming service, instead.
Other networks have had significant leaks as well. The Season 3 premiere of Showtime’s Homeland leaked and generated upward of 100,000 in only a few hours, and The CW’s Arrow had a major episode leak earlier in Season 4. AMC isn’t the only channel who may need to go the extra mile to crack down on piracy.
Fortunately for AMC, The Walking Dead's status as one of the top-pirated shows online hasn’t stopped it from also being one of the top-rated shows on television. The extra millions of views taken by pirates in 2014 and 2015 certainly would have bolstered the numbers of the seasons nicely, but The Walking Dead isn’t exactly circling the drain. Hopefully, these new measures will see the numbers rise even more.
To catch The Walking Dead live as a law-abiding zombie lover, be sure to tune into AMC on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET in the States. If you want to see actual sea-faring pirates in action, you can probably count on a few appearing on the second season of the Walking Dead spinoff Fear the Walking Dead when it debuts on April 10.