Channel Nine remains confident its 2017 screening of the BBC's Planet Earth II will still prove a hit despite reports Australians are illegally downloading the documentary en masse.
Planet Earth II premiered two weeks ago in the UK, attracting 9.2 million viewers on BBC One. Last week, Nine secured the Australian rights to the series in a deal with BBC Worldwide - a surprising omission from Nine's TV Upfronts last week.
The David Attenborough narrated UK debut made it the highest-rating natural history title in 15 years for the BBC, vindicating Nine's decision to secure a winning format that should attract a healthy ad spend to boot.
However, eager Aussie fans of the documentary don't want to wait until 2017 and many have taken to illegal downloading sites to get their Planet Earth fix, no doubt enticed by the viral iguana vs snakes chase scene, lauded as the 'greatest doco scene in history'.
Nine would not be drawn on the rationale behind delaying the screening, but told AdNews: “We are confident the great quality of Planet Earth II program will be enjoyed by a majority of Australians when it is shown on Nine screens in early 2017.”
However, as it's nearing the end of this year's TV ratings season, it's also possible Nine is saving the show to build momentum when the 2017 ratings year begins in an effort to prevent another poor start.
Delaying the show comes with risk as Australians have a knack for illegally downloading big shows. The first episode of Game of Thrones’ sixth season was not only the most-watched program in the history of pay television in Australia, but it also broke a record for illegal downlands – with Australia leading the way as the worst offending country.
According to The Guardian, Australia was responsible for 12.5% of all illegal downloads of the episode within 12 hours of its broadcast in the US. India came in second with 9.7%, followed by the US with 8.5% and the UK with 6.9%.
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