‘Empire’ is a US TV show that follows the fortunes the Lyon family. When father Luscious discovers that he has terminal cancer he tells his sons that one them will be the successor to Empire Records, the successful family business. Cue lots on intrigue and backstabbing.
The well-reviewed Fox show has been a massive hit in the Sates, racking up some 13 million viewers during its premier in January, but according to its star Taraji P Henson, who plays Cookie, the strong ‘I’ll get what’s rightfully mine’ ex-wife of Luscious, the show would never have had a UK broadcast were it not for the legion of fans who have illegally downloaded the show,
‘The only way that [Empire] got over to the UK is because people were streaming it. They [UK television companies] wouldn’t have known the show was that important, or that people wanted to see it, if they weren’t streaming it. You guys were streaming, and I know it’s a bad thing, but when the material is good people will find it. Thank you. Thank you everybody. People didn’t think it would do well over here… So [people said] get it over here and that’s what they got.”
According to a popular torrent news website, ‘Empire’ was downloaded more than 250,000 times per episode via BitTorrent, a figure that does not include pirating via streaming websites or other means.
Although actress Taraji P Henson was quick to thank pirates for the show being picked up by E4 (operated by Channel4), the man who buys international shows for E4, Nick Lee, was keen to downplay any influence that piracy might have had on the decision,
‘We just think it fits so well on the channel. There was huge competition. I think most channels in the UK wanted it. This show put on 82% of audience between episode one and the series finale… I don’t want thank [the pirates], no. Some people might want to do that. It’s fresh and you need to see it on a big screen live.’